Category Archives: My Backyard

A May-September Romance

Akkaya Gardens

A sign along the road told us the villas nestling in the hill below were part of the Secret Valley complex and we’re presuming the area is called Akkaya. Beautiful river and mountain views – and you can’t help but wonder how long this place is going to be ‘secret’. We got back in the car and continued to follow the signs, down the hill towards the river and the restaurant.
We were greeted by lush greenery, ponds, streams, the sound of waterfall and the breeze rushing through the dense treetops. A friendly waiter greeted us and pointed us to the different seating areas.
A family from Samsun has been operating the Tree House Restaurant since 2012 from May to September.
A steep climb up the steps and we were soon in our very own stork nest, sat amongst the treetops, loving the seclusion. We couldn’t see or hear the other families enjoying their  Turkish Breakfast.
Friday nights are Turkish cuisine with entertainment.
This is the development at the top of hill.
118 meter two bed rooms, two baths, two balconies and therapeutic views.
East view with fire observatory on top and a one cylinder Mosque down below.

Egirdir Lake

Eğirdir is the name of a lake and of the town situated on the shore of that lake in Turkey. The lake lies in the Turkish Lakes Region and is 186 kilometers north of Antalya. With an area of 482 square kilometers it is the fourth largest lake in Turkey.

Jane Marie & Mehmet Pasha Do Lunch at the Vanilla

Mehmet (Pasha) Ates represents a five generational Silk Road enterprise in Antalya’s Old Town.
Mehmet Pasha, for those who don’t know, is the man to know in Antalya’s Old Town. Jane Marie and I met Mehmet shortly after we got off the boat back in 2015 at his carpet shop.
Every visitor friend soon ends up spending time getting a mini-seminar on kilim rugs.
The Vanilla restaurant is ‘the’ dining experience in Kaleiçi (Castle Gate) or Old Town in expat speak.
Jane Marie gave the curry-vegetable dish 5+ stars..
Vehbi Koç was a Turkish entrepreneur and philanthropist. He founded the Koç Group, one of Turkey’s largest groups of companies. During his lifetime he came to be one of Turkey’s wealthiest citizens.

Jane Marie got a sneak peek at the hotel that the Vehbi Koç family is building in Old Town. The glass floor entry covers the ruins of the previous city center when Alexander the Great came ashore in 333 BC.

BOTH ENDS OF THE SILKROAD

Rule of Law, Accountability, Property Rights & Strong Government

Empires of the Silk Road, by Christopher I. Beckwith separates the history of civilization into trade by land over the Silk Road from the Bronze Age until Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. After the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and English colonized the entire world. everything went by sea, and the Ottoman Empire ceased to be.

Cruise the Med before your dead

Jane Marie gave up on an African safari and sleeping on the ground for a 12 day cruise around the Eastern Mediterranean in style at half the price.

The Vatican

The Holland America cruise started in Rome so Jane Marie added a four day prequel and a must tour of the Vatican
We needed to join a tour to weave our way through the tourist season crowd.
Janette our Vatican guide, clustered our flock under a shady spot to show pics of Michelangelo’s paintings that we were about to see. She began her presentation in Toastmasters 101 with a rhetorical question. Who is the guardian of our soul? I responded with my first and best smart-ass remark of the tour – “Oprah!”

Then Janette got to this pic of St. Bartholomew from the Last Judgment (1536-41) and I listened-up b/c I had been doing Bible study in Armenia.

It was in the figure of St. Bartholomew, the martyr who was flayed alive, that Michelangelo chose to create a tragic and anguished self-portrait. He depicted his own face in the empty envelope of skin that hangs grotesquely from the saint’s hand, a metaphor for the artist’s tortured soul.
St. Bartholomew is listed among the Twelve Apostles of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark & Luke. Old Bart was on the scene of the Ascension and the Armenian Apostolic Church honors Bart along with Saint Thaddeus as its patron saints. At least that’s what Father Vatcheh at the Geghard Monastery and Wikipedia told me.

The Pantheon

Since my history of architecture class was 8 to 11 Saturday mornings I vaguely remembered what the Pantheon looked like.

The Tiber

The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing 406 kilometers through Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, where it is joined by the river Aniene, to the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Ostia and Fiumicino. It drains a basin estimated at 17,375 square kilometres. The Tiber is the third-longest river in Italy, rising in the Apennine Mountains in Emilia-Romagna and flowing 406 kilometers through Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, where it is joined by the river Aniene, to the Tyrrhenian Sea, between Ostia and Fiumicino. It drains a basin estimated at 17,375 square kilometers.

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is a square in Rome, Italy. It is built on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in the 1st century AD, and follows the form of the open space of the stadium. The ancient Romans went there to watch the agones, and hence it was known as “Circus Agonalis”.

The KONINGSDAM

“Painters, Painters, Man Your Brushes” – the good news: we had a starboard balcony cabin on the 4th level, the bad: you had to stand up to see over the life boat.
Holland America Line – Koningsdam 12 – Day Ancient Empires 7 July, 2019 – 19 July, 2019
Jane Marie puts the Koningsdam’s 3,000 guests and 2,000 crew into perspective.
When’s Lunch? Anytime you want sit down dining, room service, buffet, coffee, tea and lemonade all free. My AA card saved me from the 8 Euro drinks and I lost three kilos with a strict keto diet of pork, lamb & beef.
Ever so happy Jane Marie let me come along. with that “Gracious Ease” smile we never had to sit in the corner by ourselves.

Athens

Although there are many other acropolis’s in Greece, the significance of the Acropolis of Athens is such that it is commonly known as The Acropolis. I swear it had a roof in my 1963 history of architecture class.
Are you ready to climb the steps to the Acropolis?

Mykonos

IMAR Gallery Mykonos – Georganta: oil painting on aluminum
Mykonos is an island in the Cyclades group in the Aegean Sea. It’s popularly known for its summer party atmosphere. Beaches such as Paradise and Super Paradise have bars that blare thumping music. Massive dance clubs attract world-renowned DJs and typically stay open well past dawn. Iconic landmarks include a row of 16th-century windmills, which sit on a hill above Mykonos town.
The island of Mykonos is one of the most popular Greek islands and it belongs to the Cyclades islands group. Mykonos island, the Ibiza of Greece as it is called, is particularly famous for the picturesque town and the fantastic beaches. It is also famous as a gay friendly destination.
It does have that “Let us entertain you attitude.”
Jane Marie the collage artist discovered collage aplenty on the walkways of Mykonos
Catch that real rope hanging over the side of the boat. How much do you think they want for this beauty?
I’m eyeballing these statuettes 6 to 24 inches tall 50 to 100 Euros each. Didn’t bother asking about the boat rope.
Two thumbs up for Mykonos: artsy-crafty and a doable two to three hour shop around.

Kusadasi

As five-year expat residents of Antalya, Turkey, we were proud that Kusadasi, the port for Ephesus, was the cleanest, most presentable of any on the cruise.
Turkish Pilot coming to guide the Komingsdam to dock at Kusadasi.
Jean Pierre & Nelly debriefing us on their visit to Ephesus at a city center cafe in Kusadasi.

During the 2nd century BC, Ephesus was the fourth largest city in the eastern Roman Empire, famous for, the Library of Celsus – The library was “one of the most impressive buildings in the Roman Empire” and built to store 12,000 scrolls and to serve as a mausoleum for the Roman Senator: Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, who is buried in a crypt beneath the library in a decorated marble sarcophagus. The Library of Celsus was the “third-largest library in the ancient world” behind only Alexandria and Pergamum.
Jane Marie took a pass this time on revisiting the Library but recommended to everybody on the cruise that Ephesus was at the top of her must see Turkey destinations.

RHODES

Rodos looked the same save for five jillion more tourists than when we visited in out-of-season November. The arch entrance has been there since the Knights of St. John but the bougainvillea?
It’s somewhat challenging to rent a car and drive around the island in time to get back to the ship by four o’clock.
Seven Springs is about midway down the coast and up the bicyclist’s hill.
A must walk-around of the Knights of Saint John fortress which finally fell to Suleiman the Magnificent’s invasion force of 400 ships and army of 100,000 men in 1522. The sultan allowed the Knights to relocate to Malta so they could create future tourist attractions closer to mainstream Europe.

Santorini

We call this Nelly’s table and submit her photo as the Best in Show for the Komingsdam’s Santorini port of call.

Crete

Nelly, a ‘Walloon’ 36-year resident of Palm Desert, California, owner of Democracy@democracypd, with the maiden name Koningsdam graces the oldest mosque on Crete with her charming aura.

Straits of Messina

Jane Marie touched off the Mt.Etna & Stromboli Island volcanoes on our return to Rome.
This photo of Stromboli spilling over was taken by Nelly’s husband Jean Pierre, who was voted ‘Most Popular’ passenger on the cruise.

Thank God My Father Moved Us to Cincinnati

When I was at least 12, Marion and Esther, my G.I. generation parents took me to Coney Island. I was still too scared to ride the roller-coasters but the ‘Dogems’ appealed to my passive-aggressive nature. Once back home Marion asked me if I noticed the black kid I had banged into several times? “No, why?”

Well, for more than 65 years, Coney Island and its Sunlite Pool had been a riverside playground for most of the people of Cincinnati; it boasted cleanliness, thrilling rides, a place to swim and dance, a whisper of bygone days.  But it was closed to blacks. The pool, even longer.  That a place of public accommodation would remain a pocket of segregation as long as it did — especially in a Northern, industrial city — surprises many, astounds others.  After all, the Supreme Court had ordered schools desegregated in 1954.  The park finally opened its gates to blacks in 1955, and by the time the pool was integrated — May 29, 1961 — the civil-rights struggle was well under way, punctuated by sit-ins and demonstrations around the country.

I was a Baby Boomer enjoying my childhood midway through Act I (1943-1964) of Neil Howe’s 4th Turning a four-generation live action, socio-political-psycho-economic histo-drama, I call, “Apocalypse Soon, Armageddon Later.” Starring fellow Boomers; George ‘W’ 1946, Hillary 1947, Bill Clinton 1946, Trump 1946, Xi Jinping 1953 and Putin 1952.

On my street, Mooney Avenue, we had 70 kids in an approximate 60-40 split between Protestants and Catholics. As children of a fervent Christian Scientist mother, my sister and I tried to hide under the Protestant umbrella. The Catholic kids went to Saint Mary’s and the rest of us attended Hyde Park elementary. So, in my 1955 life experience, no black kids here, no black kids there and no black kids anywhere except for that kid on the ‘Dogems.’

Marion always bought ugly used cars like this ’53 Nash Ambassador – ‘Greg’ as Esther called him, drove us to Sunday school at the 1st Church of Christ Scientist Norwood then came back an hour later to pick us up. Norwood was a future Trump country neighborhood where everybody was white and wore blue collars to work at the GM Fischer Body plant.

Two Sundays a month, after Marion got paid, we went to Frisch’s Big Boy on Duck Creek and ate in the car. Whether it was a payday Sunday or a fried chicken at home Sunday, I’d come back with a headache from my hour-long lesson in Mind Over Matter and the evils of materia-medica. My physical remedy for this meta-physical problem, was holding a cold wash cloth to my left temporal.

Headaches: Invalidating the self. Self-criticism. Fear.

   “I love and approve of myself. I see myself and what I do with eyes of love. I am safe.”

My second wife gifted me with Louise Hay’s book Heal Your Body A-Z to teach me what I failed to learn in Sunday School.

RELIGION was my number one childhood complaint – “can’t we all just be normal kids like everybody else on the block” – number two was Marion shaming us with the only non-GM or Ford vehicle in Hyde Park, and used at that.

RACE RELIGION POLITICS SEX & MONEY

However, after Labor Day 1955, Marion drove me half way across town – to the east/west dividing line – to my first day at Walnut Hills High School. The school was smack dab in the middle of EVANSTON and from outward appearances an all-black community. I read recently that Cincinnati was the 8th most segregated city in the USA. Just looking out the window I couldn’t tell if they were Protestant or Catholic but they were the same color as that kid I bumped into at Coney Island.

But, oh Lordy, Lordy the halls of the 2,000+ 7-12th grade students at Walnut Hills High School were populated with black kids and white kids, but half of the white kids were Jews. Marion had warned me that, “if I didn’t learn anything from the Jews, I would never learn anything.” The first thing I noticed was that all the Jewish girls had breasts.

Secondly, while the Coney Island pool wouldn’t be integrated until the year I graduated, at WHHS all the boys swam naked. In my swim class everyone had more pubic hair, than I had hair on my head. Walnut Hills was an academic melting pot, my class of 305, had kids from every neighborhood in the city – places I had never heard of, let alone visited. What WHHS didn’t have was greasers or hoods.Well, we did have Marty until he dropped out in the tenth grade. Marty wore ducktails and tried to act tough-cool but the only status symbol at WHHS was your grade point average.

My favorite WHHS grad was Miller Huggins, Class of 1897 pictured with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Miller’s father was a Methodist and prohibited his son from playing semi-pro ball on Sundays. Huggins graduated from law school and his professor, none other than William Howard Taft advised him that he’d make more money playing baseball.

Huggins set an MLB record on June 1, 1910 with six plate appearances but no at bats, with four walks and two sacrifice flies. Huggins, was short but WHHS smart and managed the Yankees from 1921-29. The Yankees swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series. This team became known as Murderers’ Row, and is considered the one of the greatest teams in baseball history.

My favorite famous WHHS grad was Jerry Rubin who went off to Berkley to found the ‘Yippies’ and protest the Vietnam War.

I passed the reading/math test to gain admittance to WHHS but Latin, Trig, Physics and Chemistry left me intellectually challenged in a very competitive environment. That, plus suffering from a severe case of homework avoidance syndrome, left me at the back of the pack on graduation day in 1961.

Of the 305 graduates, the top 100 went off to Harvard, Princeton, Yale and beyond. The middle third headed for Prairie League universities especially the hometown favorite the University of Cincinnati. My application to UC’s school of Architecture was rejected because I had not graduated in the top 10% of my high school class.

Tom Thacker along with Tony Yates were our most famous classmates in the ’61-’62 year.

I was happy to just be a poly-sci guy at Miami or Antioch but Marion, the hard knocks engineer, wasn’t about to pay for any of that monkey business. So, Howard, Eddie and I entered UC’s Ding-Dong, two-year, associate’s degree program. I did so well relearning 7th grade Algebra, English and History that I was granted admission to the 1962 class of Architecture.

Cincinnati was 85% German Catholic, home to Hebrew Union College and Rabbi Silver founder of Reformed Judaism. Thus, Cincinnati was blessed with a pragmatic German education culture. This meant that even though I missed out on Harvard I was going to be a University of Cincinnati Co-Op student and go to work for a living from my Freshman year on.

The University of Cincinnati was the first university in the world to offer cooperative education. A bust of UC co-op founder Herman Schneider stands outside Baldwin Hall.

Herman Schneider (1872–1939), engineer, architect, and educator, concluded that the traditional learning space or classroom was insufficient for technical students. Schneider observed that several of the more successful Lehigh graduates had worked to earn money before graduation. Gathering data through interviews of employers and graduates, he devised the framework for cooperative education (1901). However, in 1903 the University of Cincinnati appointed Schneider to their faculty. In 1905 the UC Board of Trustees allowed Schneider to “try this cooperative idea of education for one year only, for the failure of which they would not be held responsible.” The cooperative education program was launched in 1906, and became an immediate success.

RACE RELIGION POLITICS MONEY & SEX

My Coop Job ’61 to ’67 was as an architectural “Apprentice” above the Colony theater on Shaker Square

I spent Spring and Fall quarters 1961-1967 working as an architectural co-op student in the offices of Outcalt, Guenther, Rode, Toguchi and Bonebrake, the biggest architectural firm in Cleveland. Thanks to Marion’s big sister, who got me the job after high school and Herman Schneider, I was able to pay my way through seven years of university and learn firsthand that architects don’t make any money.

Walnut Hills, the Harvard of Cincinnati’s Public Education System

Withrow High School named Ohio’s most beautiful by Architectural Digest. Designed along with Walnut Hills High School by the grandfather of one of my alphabetically speaking best friends, Sted Garber.

Marion, was hell bent on sending me to the best high school in Cincinnati, but he wanted me to make the decision. My options were Withrow, three blocks away, Indian Hills or Country Day, private schools in an aristoi neighborhood a few miles further east. The fourth consideration was Walnut Hills, where I had received an invitation because I had passed the entrance test. At Hyde Park elementary I sat behind Steve Hussey and in front of Bob Yeager, my future classmates. I didn’t copy Hussey’s answers and I’m sure Yeager, our de facto class leader, would never look my way.

What to do? When Esther asked me, now that I was twelve, did I want to join the church? I gave a near instant response, NO, I want to be a Presbyterian! But, three doors down Bob Shirley, older brother of Kathy Shirley, my Drexall drug store cherry coke first date, gave me his Walnut Hills sales pitch.

Tom, the homework’s not that bad. It’s easy to get there, you catch the 69 Madisonville at the end of the street, transfer at Peebles Corner to the 31 Vine Woodburn, walk 3 blocks in the rain, sleet or snow and you’re there.

Jimmy Fallon jokes about how 17 students from the same high school got perfect ACT scores. Our class of ’61 had 31 SAT scholarship recipients.

In 1935 the Board of Education confirmed the status of the school as “an institution specialized for college preparation.” Again in 1972, the Board of Education reaffirmed the position of Walnut Hills High School as a six-year, college preparatory school. As early as 1926 a systematic method of pupil selection was adopted. Today all students enter the school after passing a special college preparatory examination.

The Recipe for Saving Public Education

Municipal (free) Six Year (get ’em when they’re young) College Preparatory High School (everybody’s going to college) open to all (swim with every fish in the sea) qualified elementary students city wide.

ALL I KNEW WAS WHAT I READ IN MY ‘WEEKLY READER’

The Bad Guys in 1950’s according to my Weekly Reader in Hyde Park Elementary school, Cincinnati, Ohio.
My 1955 6th Grade map in the Weekly Reader had the world from east of Italy to Hong Kong colored in Red, ‘Big Bad Red.’

On Mooney Avenue, Andre my fellow classmate and across the street neighbor, along with 3rd grader Greg didn’t know squat or could care less about Russia or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics but China that was different. I mean everybody knew that China had a Great Wall and if you dug a hole deep enough you would come out on the other side somewhere in China. We managed a whopping three feet, when Mrs LeClair, doctor LeClaire’s wife, Andre’s mother or “Dorthy” to politically incorrect – at an early age – me, came out to save us. Not for digging our way to China, just messing up the yard.

Andre and I along with 303 others graduated from Walnut Hills, Cincinnati’s municipal college preparatory high school, in May 1961

Andre went to a good school Earlham, while Howie, Eddie and I shuffled off to the University of Cincinnati’s ‘Ding-Dong” two- year associate program for scholastic remediation because we were in the lower third of our class in high school. We all mastered 7th grade algebra, 8th grade English, and a subject I had never heard of PSYCH 101. History, my favorite subject at Walnut Hills, was dispensed in a 500 seat lecture hall where the professor was worried about the ‘Commies’ dropping the ‘Big One.’

“When it comes, I’m going sit on the lawn in Mt. Adams with a case of Schoeling Little Kings and watch the show.”

Little Kings and its distinctive 7-ounce green bottle were invented in the ’50s when patrons of Montgomery Inn didn’t want to purchase full-sized beers to pair with shots of whiskey. Rumor is that the draft system at the restaurant was broken and no one wanted to buy a big 12-ounce bottle of beer when they just wanted a chaser, so the Schoenling’s started packaging their cream ale in smaller bottles.  

Drafted twice, I watched Alan Shepard land on the Moon on my BOQ TV at Ft. Sill. A year later I was on board the USS Okinawa as it pulled into Hong Kong harbor for a ten-day ‘liberty-call.’

Be Careful What You Dig For

‘My Weekly Reader‘ map was still colored red but now the ‘Bad Boys’ were trying, according to the CIA Military-Industrial complex, to paint Vietnam red from top to bottom. I spent my entire October ’69 to October ’70 tour observing the shoreline of both Mainland China and Vietnam.

My first marital partner and I visited Hong Kong in 1981 on our way to Singapore. The Star Ferry was still chugging away, Victoria Peak had a ‘Wendy’s’ at the top but the US Navy was no longer welcome.

An Architect and his Money are soon Parted

On 8 January 2008 I closed on a home that cost three times my monthly income.

867 Tyler, Eugene, OR

“Well Mr. Gregory how did you expect to pay for it?”

I didn’t have a clue, Physics, Chemistry and for sure Trigonometry were not my best subjects at Walnut Hills High School. The only way I made it through Calculus in DAAP (Design, Art, Architecture & Planning) was copying Tom Sezniak’s paper.

Then I had what they call in Eugene, an epiphany. I was thinking back on the cosmic reason Andre and I were digging that hole in his back yard.

Teach ESL in China

Teaching ESL freshman English majors using the Toastmasters format at Henan Agricultural University in Zhengzhou, Mainland China 2009.

How Do You Get to Sarajevo City Hall? Practice!

The United Nations sponsors musical education in Bosnia. Students, professors and administrators from participating universities, gathered at Sarajevo’s famed City Hall for the weekly Monday Concert. The UN rep gave the opening talk in American English with Bosnian translation. Even the mayor was there.

Sarajevo City Hall the ‘Temple Mount’ of the “European Jerusalem”

Situated at the intersection of three major streets in Sarajevo, the City Hall is a monument to the multiculturalism of Bosnia. Built between 1892 and 1894, the pseudo-Moorish building honored the Muslim background of this Austro-Hungarian territory. The façade is based on Mamluk-period buildings in Cairo. The building has been used for various municipal purposes since its construction, including as a city court and parliament house, which it was until 1948, when it became the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 



Sarajevo was the city of four religions: Catholics, Orthodox, Muslim, and Jews. The Jewish population made note of this, naming the city “The European Jerusalem.”  Settled in prehistoric times, followed by Ottoman rule in the 15th century, Austro-Hungarian rule in the 19th century, Yugoslavia’s communist rule in the 20th century, and finally today’s democracy.

August 25-26, 1992, the City Hall was hit by heavy artillery and incendiary bombs. The hall was set ablaze and the entire library holdings were lost. The fire caused severe damage to the structural and decorative elements of the building. In 1996, the government of Austria funded an initial restoration effort that focused on load-bearing walls and masonry. The European Commission followed in 1999 with funds to continue restoration of structural elements


The edifice was designed by Karel Pařík in a stylistic blend of historical eclecticism, predominantly in the pseudo-Moorish expression, for which the stylistic sources were found in the Islamic art of Spain and North Africa. His epitaph reads: “Here rests the builder of Sarajevo. Czech by birth, Sarajevan by choice. – A thankful Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

In May 2014 the building reopened with a public ceremony. The restoration was completed in time to mark the centenary of World War I, triggered by the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand as he left a reception at the building in June 1914. The building now houses the national and university libraries, the city council, and a museum. November 2014

The lower level museum presents the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.
Jane Marie and I would not do well on a ‘Jeopardy’ former Yugoslavia geography quiz.
Slovenia (Melania Trump) and Croatia got all the goodies on the coast, Bosnia got Sarajevo (the Muslim Jerusalem & tourist Mecca) and Serbia got all the Serbs in all the wrong places.

Way to Go Sarajevo


The oldest pyramid in the world is in… Bosnia

Who said there was nothing to do in Bosnia? An amateur archaeologist claims to have discovered pyramids in Bosnia, but scientists say that he is lying. Inhabitants of the small town at the foot of the pyramid believe him, but not necessarily for scientific reasons.

Amira Kilalić places pita bread on the table, wraps her headscarf tighter around her bright, dyed red hair, and steps outside. Her shop is a small wooden house that stands on the mountainside. If she looks down, the 83-year-old with a wrinkled face can see Visoko, the town at the foot of the Visočica mountain.

Buy now in Visoko, if they offered Amira 250,000 Euros for her cottage, location, location, location. We’ve all heard of Sarajevo but Visoko? Com’on.

There, women wear high heels to fetch cigarettes, and in the mornings, the men are already sitting in the cafés and betting shops on the main street. If she looks up, Amira can see the castle ruins on the mountaintop.

That’s where the director of the town’s local history museum took a Bosnian entrepreneur, who visited Visoko in 2005. Back then, the ruins were the town’s only sightseeing destination. But when the director mentioned the symmetry of the mountain, his visitor stopped short, got out his compass, measured the angle of the mountain’s slopes and suddenly became certain that he was standing atop a pyramid.

After our hour tour inside the tunnels under the pyramid we drove through the village up to the exterior North Face entry. I took the picnic table opt-out option while Jane Marie started hiking up the side.
Even Jane Marie called it a day at this point. The group ahead is looking at some extraterrestrial depression, not berries or onions.
If you’ve seen one pyramid, you’ve seen them all.

Not just a mountain in Bosnia

For centuries, the mountain was just a mountain. It wasn’t until 2005, when the amateur researcher came to visit, that the mountain became “the highest and oldest pyramid in the world”. He called it the ‘Pyramid of the Sun’ (Piramida Sunca). At the time, the people of Visoko laughed and called him crazy. Today, they are proud of the find, which has brought them fame and money. “It’s so nice that the pyramid is right here,” Amira says, with a satisfied smile.

The discoverer is called Semir Osmanagić. He makes his living from a metal business in Texas, where he goes by the name Sam Osmanagich. For years, he used to visit the pyramids of the world in his spare time, wearing a wide-brimmed white hat and a cotton shirt. The 57-year-old says that since his discovery, he’s the happiest person in the world. His business has since become a side project; he visits the company four times a year, dealing with any problems over Skype. He can call himself Dr. Osmanagić because, in 2009, he wrote a PhD thesis about the Mayan civilisation at the faculty of political science in Sarajevo.

“I was here in July and took some tunnel water with me. I drank it regularly, and in October, it turned out that I’m free of tumours.”

To Amira, he is simply “Semir”. He began excavations in spring 2006. Every day while doing so, he came by her wooden house – which has neither heating nor a water supply – with his helpers. She gave them apples from her garden and observed how more and more Bosnians and foreigners with hiking boots and cameras were pouring in. When she counted over a thousand people one sunny weekend, her husband decided to open a café. They built a long timber house with a clay floor and large windows, from which Amira now sells coffee and homemade pita, woollen socks and smoked cheese.

Visiting Gobekli Tepe in 2016, led us to read “Magicians of the Gods” by Graham Hancock but the ‘Pyramid of the Sun’ in Sarajevo has put us on the occultist bus.


A place of pilgrimage for occultists

The pyramids create jobs, urgently needed in a country with an unemployment rate of almost 30%. Those who can tend to rent out rooms, sell souvenirs or earn money as taxi drivers for the tourists. Since 2005, around 100 new accommodation spaces have sprung up, and pyramid-shaped pizza is easy to find. Osmanagić even formed a Pyramid Foundation, financed by tourism revenue. The foundation employs 38 people: guides, craftspeople and guards. Osmanagić isn’t there very often though, he now gives talks around the world about his discovery. He manages the Visoko team via email.

The amateur archaeologist invites international excavation teams and journalists with him. On the pyramid’s slope, he has exposed stone slabs, and says they are man-made.

Even the head of the European Institute for Archaeology paid the site a visit. He said the find was “a pseudoscientific lie”, and that Osmanagić should stop digging. But the amateur researcher didn’t back down. Instead, he went on to discover three additional, smaller pyramids and a tunnel that – he believes – leads you to the Pyramid of the Sun. But the alleged passageways are still barricaded by stone.

Jane Marie “laying on of hands,” occultist style.

The accessible part of the tunnel is visited by around 45,000 tourists each year. “We witness miracles here: the highly ionised air in the tunnel, the extraordinary quality of the water, and the vibrations all have positive effects on people,” Osmanagić says over Skype. The entrance fee for foreigners is 10 Euros. There is tunnel water for sale in tiny 100ml glass bottles for the same price.


Armenia – You Can’t Get There from Here


Gata is an Armenian sweet bread, often about 12-14″ in diameter and about 1.5″ thick. The inside is soft, chewy and very sweet. Gata is sold at most bakeries in Armenia, and can be purchased at small road-side stores and tourist attractions outside the cities. At Geghard Monastery the name “Geghard” is written in Armenian on the Gata.
Armenia has more cathedrals than McDonald’s – matter of fact. we didn’t see any big or little Mac’s
Monastery with a view at Lake Sevan
Walking tour of the Armenian Capital – wait, wait don’t tell me – Yerevan.
Yerevan is pre-gentrified interior upgrades only requirement for occupancy
Hostel rooms start at $3/day
Mountain & very tall hill retreats are everywhere. Thanks to Jane Marie’s research we were lucky guests at the Palma B&B high above Alaverdi
The four hour drive to Yerevan makes stops at three famous cathedrals, Sanahin was our favorite

Garni-Geghard-Pokr Vedi

Garni has a five time restored Greek temple, next to last time Emperor Nero wrote a check
in 66 AD
What I liked best about Garni was the Lavash bread hot out of a real tandoor oven.
I wanted to know if any of the Apostles had been to Geghard. No but Kim Kardashian and Kanye were here in 2015
Notice when they get back in their van the Gata bread take-out
Yes that’s Mt. Ararat, Kohr-Vepi in the foreground and the Russians guarding the valley border between Turkey and Armenia
Jane Marie befriending the path builder on her way to the Kohr-Vepi cathedral, where St,Gregory was imprisoned for twelve years.

Vagharshapat – Etchmiadzin

Etchmiadzin Cathedral the Vatican of the Armenian Apostolic Church
Offering unsolicited advise on oil painting landscapes, while Jane Marie checks out the
Etchmiadzin Cathedral in Vagharshapat, Armenia
Trekker video of Armenian countryside that shows how green it is and the preservation of their unique culture.
Second video gets into the huff & puff parts of Armenia. On our car ride from the Georgia border in the north to Yerevan, we never saw a flat place.
This video by a Russian guy? gives an overview with lots of narrative, which is very informative.

Georgia On My Mind


Georgia, Georgia
The whole day through
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind (Georgia on my mind)
I said Georgia

Hard to live in Turkey very long without visiting Tbilisi, Georgia
Jane Marie & I had a two-week educational, insightful, geo-social-political, and skilled Georgian home cooking stay with our new Family

Georgia Invented Wine


Georgia
A song of you
Comes as sweet and clear
As moonlight through the pines
Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you


Chateau Mukhrani, most entertaining winery in Georgia, with US & European wine aficionados serenaded by Georgian folk music.
Clay pots with removable tops, so the wine guy/girl can push the grape stuff to the bottom every so often to let it ferment back up, so he/she can push it down again.
Georgio, our fast-talking guide, showing off Chateau’s stainless steel lined concrete shell experimental clay pot.

Jane Marie’s Tbilisi Pics


I said Georgia
Ooh Georgia, no peace I find
Just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind (Georgia on my mind)
Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you
Whoa, Georgia


According to legend, the city of Tbilisi was first founded in the mid-5th century by King Vakhtang Gorgasali, who encountered numerous hot springs while hunting in the area and was so impressed by them he decreed that a new city be built on the site. The water still runs clear, so much so that you can drink out of the tap.
Tbilisi is another great place to invest your Gentrification dollar
Tbilisi Tartar Vegan antidote
Freedom Bridge good, Fallopian tubes interesting as a curiosity
Nexus carpet shop – Persian, Armenian & Georgian and bring cash
Intelligentsia Graffiti
Foot-long cheese or bean burrito blast furnace bakery on every corner
Re-purposed Lada
Georgian equivalent of eggs Benedict
Best street art exhibit
Got to be one of the only places on earth where George ‘W’ and Dick Cheney are heroes.

Did you say Monastery?


Georgia
No peace, no peace I find
Just this old, sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
I said just an old sweet song
Keeps Georgia on my mind
Songwriters: Hoagy Carmichael / Stuart Gorell
Georgia on My Mind lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

Jane Madonna Marie Kennedy and her Acolyte
Two hats are better than one at the Mtskheta Holy Cross Church
Svetitskhoveli Cathedral Spy
Jvari Monastery