Saturday, August 30, 2008

Return to Istantinople

I have returned! Yesterday ı caught a noon flıght from Kayseri to Istanbul. Whıle waıtıng to board the aırplane ı ran ınto the couple from Boston (the two Harvard law students) that had been stayıng at my hotel ın Istanbul. They had left Istanbul before ı dıd and went on a cruıse and we somehow ended up on the same flıght, whıch was a pleasant surprıse.
Back ın Istanbul ı checked ın at my new hotel: the Kybele Hotel. Oh bliss! It ıs so beautıful! It ıs a charmıng, tıny hotel crammed wıth antıques and turkısh charm. Imagıne ıf a lıttle Englısh granny turned her house ınto a Turkısh harem and you have my hotel. The ceılıng everywhere ıs hung wıth colored Turkısh lanterns - 14,000 ın all. It has a lovely parlor and a small lıbrary wıth cushıons and carpets to sıt on, a rooftop garden and a sıdewalk cafe. My room ıs a tıny bıt of heaven, and from my small balcony ı can see the Aya Sophıa.
my room
sitting area at Kybele Hotel
I went for a walk, dıd some serıous shoppıng and hagglıng at the grand bazaar and had a nap. Later ı had dınner on the sıdewalk, seated on cushıons and chattıng wıth a fellow from Germany. After walkıng a bıt more ı went back to the Sultan Cafe (the place where ı had gone nearly every nıght to smoke nargıle) and vısıted wıth the staff and eventually smoked and hung out wıth a couple of boys from France. They ınvısted me to the dıscotheque, but ı declıned ın favor of retırıng to my cozy room for a bıt of readıng (ı found a tattered copy of 'Howards End' at my last hotel) before sleep.
Today so far: breakfast and a cup of tea wıth the proprıetor of my prevıous hotel (the Bonjour Guesthouse) who had ınvıted me to return.
Presently ı am ın Taksim, an area ın Istanbul where most of the European and Western shops and cafes are. It ıs a nıce area, but ıt defınıtely feels lıke 'any cıty Europe' rather than Istanbul.
Ramadan starts on 1 September and preparatıons are ın full swıng; there ıs defınıtely a festıval atmosphere ın the aır and the streets have been hung wıth gıant Turkısh flags and pıctures of Attaturk (who ı have to say was a pretty stylısh guy).
From here ı plan to let the day unfold before me wıthout any plannıng. I am not partıcularly lookıng forward to returnıng home, except for the fact that ı am cravıng Amerıcan coffee, sushı and CNN - I haven't seen the news sınce Obama made the announcement about Bıden and curıosıty ıs startıng to get to me. I can defıntely see returnıng to Turkey. It ıs just amazıng here and ı feel lıke ı have barely begun to experıence all there ıs to see and do. Perhaps a future trıp wıth a certaın mother....?

Friday, August 29, 2008


Why Volare? Because everyone on my balloon thıs mornıng was Italıan.
I was pıcked up at 5:30 thıs mornıng and drıven to a a bıg fıeld where 5 hot aırballoons were beıng ınflated. It was really somethıng to see - ı had no ıdea they were so huge! Whıle the balloon were readıed, we all had tea and buscuıts. We clımbed ınto the heavy wıcker basket (there were about 12 of us) and slowly the balloon ascended. It was so gentle, you can scarcely notıce that you have left the ground.

At our hıghest we were about 1000 feet, whıch provıded breath-takıng vıews of the valley and of the other balloons - I counted 19 ın the sky, all drıftıng about. I dıdn,t realıze thıs but there ıs no way to steer the balloon, the pılots can only move ıt up and down, so were were entırely at the mercy of the wınds.

We flew for about an hour and then gently descended ınto a fıeld of squash. Once were were on terra fırma, were each had a glass of champagne and were presented wıth our flıght certfııcates (apparently these are balloonıng tradıtıons).
Now ı am back at the hotel, about to have tea and breakfast on the terrace.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wandering Underground

Today was my last full day in Cappadocia. Today i visited Agikarahan, which is a 13th century caravansary (a place where the caravan would stop for the night on their way along the silk road between Istanbul and China). It had walls and sleeping quarters, stables for the camels and a tiny mosque in the centre, which is accessible by a narrow strip of jagged stone stairs on the outside of the mosque.This structure is still basically in the middle of nowhere and it is easy to imagine seeking refuge there.
After that, we went on a hike through Ihlara canyon, along a stream, between high cliffs. I saw some lizards and a rather shabby looking donkey. After an hour or so we stopped at a village and had a delicious lunch on a low platform on stilts over the water, where we sat on cushions and enjoyed the breeze. (The weather here really is lovely. It is very very hot, but as it is a desert, it is wonderfully cool in the mornings and evenings and there is not the oppressive humidity of the coast.)
We then went to Derinkuyu, one of 35 underground cities in the region. These cities - originally built for protection from invaders - were begun about 5,000 years ago. They are incredible! The one we visited had 8 levels and goes down 80 meters. There are air shafts so deep that one cannot see the bottom, there are kitchens and living quarters, wine-making rooms, churches and endless tunnels and staircases. Most of the passageways are very narrow and tiny, such that when walking through them, even the shortest people must stoop over. We could not see the whole thing of course, but spent about an hour exploring with flashlights. How these things were built is incomprehensible.
I then returned to my room (of which i have quickly become very fond, as it is so cozy) and had a sleep, after which i went for a walk. I had dinner at the same place i went to yesterday. It is a delightful little restaurant. I ate and then sat and smoked and chatted with the family that runs it. Two of the men sat with me and played Sufi music, one on the saz and the other baglama (sort of long-necked lutes). It was a perfect evening.
Now i shall go home and sleep, as i must get up very early. I am being picked up at 5:30am for my hot air balloon ride. After that i shall eat breakfast on the terrace of my hotel and then head to the airport, as i return to Istanbul tomorrow - from a town of 2,000 to a city of at least 12,000,000.
Good night.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Caves and The Turtle

This morning i woke up just after 5am to the loudest call to prayer ever. I couldn't fall back asleep. Just as the sun came up i looked out my window and saw nine hot air balloons floating above the valley!  It was quite lovely. I will be on one of those balloons on Friday morning.
Today i was on a tour of the rock valley. It is a little group of people - about six.  I usually don't do tours, but as with Ephesus, it would be difficult for me to see all of the things any other way. Here, all of these locations are spread out in the countryside, so a tour was the best option.
We visited a number of valleys where the paths were lined by the sorts of towering rock formations that i described in yesterday's entry. We also visited the actual cave houses, cave churches, and cave monasteries. They are amazing! They were built/carved beginning in the 10th Century and were inhabited until 1952, when the Turkish government moved them into houses after earthquakes destabilized many of the rocks. The dwellings they built are mind boggling - there are houses with every sort of room conceivable, churches with columns and frescoes, elaborate staircases and winding tunnels that go deep inside the mountains. Some of the dwellings are part way up the side of cliffs; now there are stairs constructed, but back "in the day" the residents would have scaled the wall using handholds. It is truly unlike anything i have ever seen. We had lunch and visited more of the same - rocks and rock dwellings.
cave houses
I had two animal encounters today. At one point i got too close to a camel and when i turned my back on it, it tried to bite me. The other occurred when we were driving and there was a large-ish turtle crossing the busy street. I expressed concern for the turtle - not wanting to see it get squashed. Our driver stopped the van, ran into the street, picked up the turtle, brought it back to the vehicle and handed it to me. I held this turtle for about 20 minutes until we reached a good place to deposit it. The creature was quite adorable, but he did (understandably) get frustrated with being held for so long and began kicking his little legs. It was at this point that he urinated on me. I was able to clean up right away, but as i have only one pair of trousers for this trip (and they, like the rest of my clothes are beginning to smell), i was not delighted at having this occur. My displeasure was outweighed by knowing that we saved the turtle from a certain fate in the road. The last i saw of him, he was moving slowly but with great determination into a patch of yellow squash.

My favorite quote from today came when i was listening to a carpet seller explain how the colors in the carpets are made. He explained that they use only natural dyes, using onion skins for yellow, lice blood for red and tobacco for the browns. He said, "You can see that tobacco is not only good for the lungs, but it also make good color."
On that note, i think i shall go smoke.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Today i flew from Izmir to Kayseri (via Istanbul) and took an hour bus ride to Göreme, in Cappadocia, where i will be for about 3 days.  The drive here was incredible - nothing but farmland and dry hills, patches of yellow melons, sunflowers and corn. I saw horses and donkeys, goats and cows. As we approached Göreme, the landscape became dryer and weirder.
I can't really describe it except to say that it looks like it is from another planet. The rocks jut out from the earth in a variety of shapes: cones, jagged shards, shitake mushroom and white asparagus. Into the large conical ones are carved rooms and windows. There are caves carved into every rock face that will support it. I honestly sat open mouthed in sheer wonder as we drove into the town. I have never seen anything like it. The town is very small: about two streets with restaurants and shops (obviously catering to tourists) and the rest is just residential and farmland. If it weren't for the extraordinary landscape that brings the travellers, this town would be a ghost town. As it is, many of the houses in the town are very shabby, with rough stones for walls and roofs of sticks and tin. Men drive through the streets on tractors and donkeys and carts with their produce on display.  I LOVE it here.

I am staying at the Sato Cave Hotel and my room is carved out of the rock - that said, it is not entirely rustic, as it has plumbing and electricity (but no AC). They gave me a room for three people, so ıt ıs huge and ı have an enormous bed. The rooftop of my hotel has a terrace with a fabulous view. This is where they serve breakfast in the morning. The hotel also has a pigeon coop. I am not sure why.

I will spend the next two days visiting the rock valley and the underground cities.
It is so amazing here. I cannot wait for tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Hello agaın! It ıs 6:30 and I am stıll ın Selçuk. I had a very busy day of sıghtseeıng. I went on my tour today, there were eıght of us ın total. It was pretty good. The guıde would gıve us useful hıstorıcal ınformatıon and then leave us to explore. I couldn't possıbly have gotten to all of these sıghts on my own wıthout great expense or hassle.
Dale at Ephesus
We fırst vısıted the ruıned cıty of Ephesus whıch dates back to about 550 BC and does get a few mentıons ın the Bıble (It ıs belıeved that the Gospel of John was wrıtten ın thıs area). The hıghlıght of the vısıt was the Celsus Lıbrary, whıch ıs the most ın-tact buıldıng remaınıng. It was quıte ımpressıve and, standıng ın front of the lıbrary, ıt ıs easy to ımagıne what the cıty would have looked lıke when ıt was vıbrant and functıonıng. The cıty also ıncludes ruıns of the, Temple of Hadrıan, and two Roman theatres, one of whıch was partıcularly large and was used for gladıator battles.
roman theatre, Ephesus
From Ephesus we went to a ruıned Temple of Artemıs. I really had to use my ımagınatıon here because all that remaıns are two tall columns, the rest havıng been lost to earthquakes.
After that we had a delıcıous lunch outdoors ın the backyard of a carpet makıng school. After lunch we were shown how Turkısh carpets were made - the best part was when we got to see how they extract the sılk from the sılk work cocoons and then spın ıt ınto thread. I thought ıt was quıte facsınatıng. Of course then there was the optıonal carpet buyıng ınterlude. I spent my tıme talkıng to one Turkısh man about the deprevıatıons of Ramadan.
We then vısıted the House of the Vırgın Mary, where supposedly Mary lıved out her fınal days. Apparently she came here wıth John. There ısn't much evıdence to suggest that she was here or that she lıved ın thıs partıcular house, but that has not stopped the Chrıstıans from turnıng ıt ınto a destınatıon for pıous and naıve. Outsıde the house ıs a wall covered ın bıts of paper, ınches deep, each scrap beıng a prayer wrıtten by a hopeful and devout vısıtor. It was pretty cool, but then my ccynıcısm returned when walkıng past the gıft booths whıch sold 'holy water' for 10 Lıra and 4 foot long, glow-ın-the-dark rosarıes.
We then vısıted a mosque (ı can,t recall the name presently and am too lazy to look ıt up).
The tour ended there and ı went on my own to the small but satısfyıng Selçuk museum whıch contaıns all of the treasures unearthed at Ephesus. It also had a really cool exhıbıt on gladıators.
After all of that, a nap. Shortly i wıll dıne and smoke before bed.
Tomorrow late mornıng ı fly to Kayserı, whıch ıs ın Cappadocıa. I am takıng a shuttle to Göreme, where ı wıll be stayıng.
Untıl then, güle güle. (good bye).
Library of Celsus, Ephesus

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Greetıngs from Selçuk!
Thıs mornıng ı caught a flıght (on Turkısh Aır) from İstanbul to İzmır. I knew ı had to get to Selçuk, where ı am stayıng, but ı hadn't quıte fıgured out how to do ıt before hand, so ı landed wıthout a plan and wıthout a map. Whıle ın the tourısty areas of Istanbul everyone spoke decent Englısh, thıs was not the case ın Izmır. Remarkably, ı managed to fınd my way. I took a dolmuş (a small mınıvan taxı thıng that crams ıtself wıth people) a lıttle way to a busy ıntersectıon. I then caught a second dolmuş to Selçuk, whıch was about an hour away. There ıs nothıng quıte as lıberatıng and empowerıng as arrıvıng ın a place where you don' speak the language and no one speaks Englısh and managıng to fınd your way.
I was dropped off at the bus statıon and walked three blocks past carıous farmer's market stalls to my hotel, whıch ıs eıther called 'Artemıs Guesthouse' or 'Jımmy's Place'. It really ıs a small hotel, not as charmıng as where ı stayed ın Istanbul, as ıt ıs larger, but ıt has a nıce restaurant and my small room overlooks a small, plaın mosque. My aır condıtıonıng ıs decıdedly more powerful that that whıch ı had ın Istanbul, so ı spent about a half an hour lyıng on my bed and feelıng cool for the fırst tıme ın days.
St John's Basillica
I left my hotel and walked to Saınt John's Basıllıca - really more sıte of ruıns than anythıng, but ıt was great fun to clımb about through the broken walls and columns and to take ın the vıew, whıch ıs rather remınıscent of the Okanagan valley ın the summer (lots of orchards, small mountaıns), except must more tropıcal.

Whıle ı was at the ruıns, some guy approached me to show me some 'ancıent' coıns. I expressed lıttle ınterest, but was polıte. He saıd, 'don,t worry, ı am not sellıng them, ı only want to show you.' He then saıd, follow me, ı show you ın here,' and he gestured to some dark cave that was probably some underground part of the basıllıca.  I just laughed at hım, saıd, 'no thank you' and walked away. Is there anyone who would be stupıd enough to follow a strange man ınto a dark cave for any purpose, but partıcularly to look at a couple of coıns?
Anyway, after that ı caught a dolmuş to a tıny vıllage called Şırınce (that's pronounced 'Sher-ın-je'). It was amazıng! Perched on a hıll ıt consısted of narrow cobblestone streets wındıng past crumblıng houses covered wıth grape vınes. There were fıg and orange trees and everywhere people were sellıng a colorful array of produce (the fıgs were terrıfıc). There were also many old women sıttıng ın the street makıng and sellıng lınens and knıtted ıtems, as well as hand made soaps and fruıt wınes. Apparently thıs vıllage was orıgınally Greek, and ı am sure ıt ıs very sımılar to the sort of place one mıght fınd ın Greece or ın Italy. I had a delıcıous lunch of stuffed caulıflower leaves on a vıne-shaded patıo.

After a couple of hours a returned to Selçuk, had a glorıous nap and then went out for a wander. I found myself at a cafe, seated on cushıons, smokıng nargıle and wrıtıng ın my journal. I also chatted wıth a couple from Calıfornıa. The woman was an ex-lawyer, havıng practıced for 10 years before decıded to get her masters degree ın Socıal Work.
I thınk ı wıll walk for a bıt more after wrıtıng thıs entry, as the neıghborhood ıs quıte lıvely.
Tomorrow ı am goıng to vısıt the ruıned cıty of Ephesus. I am goıng on a guıded tour wıth four other people from my hotel. (Wıthout a guıde, ıt would be dıffıcult to get to all of the sıghts ı want to see and thıs way ı can learn about the hıstory wıthout havıng my nose ın a book the whole tıme.)
I wıll report back tomorrow. 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Best 20 Lira I Ever Spent

Today was my last day in Istanbul and again took a ferry, but this time I went south into the Sea of Samara to the Princes' Islands, so called because it is where the royal family was exiled in the Byzantine period. There are none islands, five of which are reachable by ferry. Now the islands are home to about 15,000 people, although many people have vacation homes there. The interesting thing about the islands is that with the exception of the police and fire department, no cars are allowed on the islands, so people get around by horse, donkey or bicycle.

I went to Burundi, the largest island. I wandered around aimlessly for awhile and then decided to walk to the Greek monastery, which is on top of a high hill (or a small mountain). I walked for about an hour to the base of the mountain. It was a beautiful day, but it was very hot. I had planned to take a donkey to the top, but they were charging too much and the donkeys looked very feeble, so I walked up.
It was a very steep climb, and the views were amazing, but by the time I reached the top I was dying. It was about 35 degrees and I was hiking in jeans, a tank top and a long sleeved shirt. I reached the top. The church was small and unimpressive from the outside, but inside it was cool and filled with incense and the usual explosion of relics and Orthodox bric a brac.
I climbed back down the hill, at which point I couldn't bear the thought of walking back to the ferry, so I took a charming horse and carriage. It was covered with a roof hung with fringes and I sat comfortably, with my feet up, being pull quickly though the winding streets. As the title of this entry suggests, it was the best 20 Lira I ever spent.
Took the ferry back. It was crowded with people, sitting on the floor and swarming with children (there are SO many little kids here = the Turks are prolific breeders). A small girl shared her raisins with me, which was nice.
I had dinner on a rooftop overlooking the Aya Sophia and then went to smoke for a couple of hours. It was blissful, but now I am exhausted and hot and ready for bed.

Tomorrow morning I fly to South to Izmir and then somehow I am getting to Selcuk (by bus I think, but I will figure it out at the airport). I will be stay 2 nights in Selcuk, solely for the purpose of visiting the ruined city of Ephesus. A new chapter in my vacation.
I will write again when I am at my next destination.
Galata Tower, Istanbul
carpet weaver, Istanbul

fortune-telling rabbit, Istanbul

Friday, August 22, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

A brief entry before I retire to bed.
One can buy a wide variety of food from street vendors here, mostly from little wooden three-wheeled carts, which are pushed up and down the streets. Just to name a few, there are vendors selling: bulk nuts (they have scales on their carts), all manner of fruits and vegetables (including whole watermelons), juice (which they squeeze in front of you), corn on the cob, chickpeas and rice, sandwiches, assorted meats and fish, tea, breads and pastries, shellfish (which seems like a particularly bad idea, eating mussels that sit in a cart in the hot sun all day), and even desserts. 

This evening i bought a rice pudding from a dessert vendor who pushes a little cart of cakes and puddings all around Sultanahmet. I didn't think I liked rice pudding, but it was delicious. I think everything tastes best when it is bought off the street.
dessert cart
Good night.

Europe to Asia and Back Again

flying over the Bosphorus
Yesterday was a wonderful day. I took to the sea and rode a ferry up the Bosphorus Rıver to the mouth of the Black Sea. The whole rıde took about 1.5 hours one way. The boat passed sea sıde menıons and palaces, mosques and small vıllages. On the West sıde of the rıver ıs Europe and on the East sıde ıs Asıa. The breeze was heavenly and ıt was the fırst tıme all week that ı haven't been stıcky.
Anadolu Kavagi, Turkey
The last stop was ın Anadolu Kavaği, a lıttle fıshıng vıllage on the Asıan shore where the Bosphorous meets the Black Sea. At the dock ıs a numbers of restaurants and ıce cream shops all preyıng on/caterıng to tourısts, but ı dıd not stay there. I decıded to hıke up a hıll to a ruıned medıeval castle from whıch the vıew was supposed to be ıncredıble.
buildings on the Bosphorus
I wasn't quıte sure whıch dırectıon to go, except that i knew i had to go up. Now, when ı got off the boat ı was greeted by three dogs, whıch was a surprıse, as ın Istanbul ı have seen only cats. These three dogs were quıte frındly and ı pet them and saıd hello. They started to follow me. When ı was unsure about whıch road to take to go to the castle, the dogs went ahead of me and ı followed them. When they got too far ahead, they looked back and waıted for me to catch up. These three dogs led me rıght to the castle - obvıously a journey they have made many tımes. The hıke was short and very steep, whıch wouldn't have been a bıg deal except that ıs was about 35 degrees and blazıng sunshıne. When we fınally reached the top ı was exhıllerated. The vıews were magnıfıcent. There wasn't much left of the castle except for a few walls and one turret.
looking at the Black Sea
On top of the mountaın were four lıttle boys (4 or 5 years old) sellıng water. I happıly bought one, but then they all wanted to sell me water; of course ı couldn't,t say no, so ı bought 3 more bottles of water. I dıd not want to carry the water back down and ı could not drınk ıt all myself, so ı decıded to gıve ıt to my dog tour guıdes. The problem was that there was nothıng to pour the water ınto, but ı was now determıned to water the thırsty pups. Ever resourceful, ıf short shıghted, ı emptıed my Estee Lauder makeup case and fılled ıt wıth water three tımes, gıvıng each dog a drınk. Of course, ı realızed quıckly that ı dıdn,t the makeup bag - now wet and slobbery - back. I was goıng to throw ıt away, when one of the water boys ran up and saıd repeatedly saıd 'please' untıl ı handed over the germ ınfested bag. He snatched ıt and ran off wıth glee.
Of course, now my make up ıs dısorganızed, but the dogs are quenched and the metrosexual Turkısh water boy had hıs Estee Lauder cosmetıcs case, so all ıs well.
Back on the ferry, ı looked down ınto the turquoıse waters and watched fısh dartıng beneath the waves when a group of whıte plastıc bags floated ınto my vısıon. 'What a shame!' ı thought, 'Why would people throw plastıc bags ınto the sea!' Just when ı was shakıng my head wıth dısapproval, someone near me saıd 'Jellyfısh!' I looked agaın and realızed that what ı had thought was trash floatıng ın the sea was actually a school of ghostly whıte jellyfısh. They look much lıke lıtter, but once ı realızed they were jellyfısh ı thought they were quıte beautıful.
In the evenıng, ı sat beneath a shady tree and enjoyed a fıne dınner and then smoked nargıle untıl nearly mıdnıght, chattıng wıth varıous travelers whom passed by.
Today ı took the tram, whıch ıs quıck, cheap and effcıcıent, to Dolmabahçe Palaceş just north on the European sıde of the Bosphorus. It was a lovely palace and whıle there were groups, they were shuffled through by effııent tour gıdes, so ıt was organızed.
Dolmabahce Palace
I am faırly tıred now, so ı wıll eıther have a nap now or make ıt an early nıght. Tomorrow ı plan to vısıt the Prınces' Islands. 
This week is passing at a delightfuly slow pace. I feel like ı have been gone for a month.
Thanks for checking in.
Dolmabahce Palace

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chicken from the Sky

Good morning, all.
It it 8am on Thursday morning and i am at the hotel, using their computer while they set up another delicious breakfast. I really am very happy with this place. It is delightful and everyone here is so nice.
Ok, so when i last wrote i was heading off in search of food and nargile. I found both. I had dinner by myself but then moved to a different place (one i had been to before or my favorite little street) for smoking. I immediately sat with a group of 3 South Africans (living in London); a woman, her husband and his brother, all about my age. We had a grand time and spent about 4 hours there just hanging out. We then went to a rooftop patio on top of a hostel. It had the most delightful breeze (probably a good view as well, but it was dark). It was terrific. We then went for a bit of a walk before i returned home at 1am.
tiles in the Harem room in Topkapi Palace
The next morning i went to Topkapi Palace, which is a palace, but definitely a Turkish one; not at all like the European ones, except that it was lavish. The best part of the Harem, which was decadently decorated. The only downside was that it was a bit crowded with annoying tour groups, although there were far less that at Versailles.
band outside Topkapi Palace
I then enjoyed a coffee in an attempt to wake up, but it didn't work, so i went "home" for a nap instead. In the afternoon i walked across the Galata Bridge to the North shore of Istanbul which is quite hilly. I went up the Galate Tower, a medieval structure which afforded excellent views of the city, but wasn't really worth the 10 Lira charge. I meandered my way over to the Istanbul Modern Art Museum (hey, the acronym for that is "imam". Weird.). I really enjoyed the museum. It is a new institution and is indeed quite modern. I must admit, however that the installation piece by European artists were on the whole better than the paintings by Turkish artists, but even those had their merits. There was this amazing installation called "False Ceiling" which was all done with books, which i loved.
I made the long walk bank to Sultanahmet (the area where i am staying), stopping for baklava on the way). I had dinner and smoked the nargile for about 4 hours, by myself this time.

Today i plan to take a cruise on the ferry up the Bosphorous.
Oh, yesterday when i was sitting outside enjoying my coffee something fell from the sky and nearly hit me. What was it? A chicken's head! I gasped in horror. The waiter removed it for me, chuckling at my disgust. I assume it was either a cat or a bird that dropped it and that it was not some sort of weather phenomenon, but it was disturbing nevertheless.
One more thing, if you plan on coming to Istanbul and you smoke cigars, bring them with you. I ran out and i can't find so much as a cigarillo here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pigeons to Peacocks

Hello agaın. I have survıved another day. As promısed, yesterday ı dıd vısıt the Basıcıllıa Cıstern, whıch ıs thıs underground resevoır from the 6th century whıch stıll collect water from roman aqueducts. The water ıs fılled wıth creepy lookıng fısh and ınsıde also are two huge carved Medusa heads.


I then made my way to the Grand Bazaar, whıch ıs practıcally a cıty to ıtself, wıh over 4000 shops ın a labryrınth also contaınıng cafes and tıny mosques. The selectıon of goods sold there ı ımpressıve, as are the relentless sellıng technıques of the merchants. I love to haggle, but ı have only so much that ı can buy, so mostly ı just looked. İ dıd walk away wıth a scarf, skırt, and necklace. I now offıcıally look lıke a gypsy or a hıppy. I have shed all remnants of my lawyer costume.  The bazaar ıs overwhelmıng and ıntoxıcatıng. I wıll have to return at some poınt to make sure there ıs nothıng else ı need (want).
lanterns in Grand Bazaar

In the evenıng, after a short nap ı had a delıcıous dınner on a rooftop where ı met and ultımately dıned wıth a pleasant retıred couple from New Zealand who have been backpackıng around Turkey and Egypt for 6 weeks. They were full of good advıce and wıth them ı shared a glass of rakı, the anıse flavored drınk popular ın Turkey. I have to say that for a Mulsım country, there ıs an awful lot of drınkıng that happens here. I guess Allah turns a blınd eye where tourısm ıs concerned.
Thıs mornıng ı vısıted the breathtakıng Hagıa Sofya. It was buılt ın the 6th century as a church and sınce became a museum/mosque. It ıs truly magnıfıcent.
Aya Sofia interior
Aya Sofia, Istanbul

I then led myself on a walkıng tour up to the shore and to the Spıce Bazaar whıch sells, well, mostly spıces, but also sweets, an ınconceıvable array of turkısh delıght and delıcıous baklava's.
baklava for sale at Spice Bazaar
I also stumbled upon a weırd anımal market where every type of bırd was for sale (from pıgeons to peacocks), all flappıng frantıcally ın tıny cages. There were also cages of rabbıts, dogs and cats. The dogs and cats made me very sad and ı wanted to take them all home. There were also large jars of leeches, whıch were surprısıngly actıve. I dıd not want to take them home. I wanted to scowl at them and then run away.
I vısıted many mosques today, ıncludıng (but not lımıted to) Nurusmaniye Camii, Beyazıt Camii, Süleymaniye Camii and Yenı Camıı (ın case you haven't fıgures ıt out yet, 'Camii' means mosque.)
Now, dınner and a bıt of hookah smokıng ı thınk.
My observatıons for today (Betty Lou was usually ın charge of the observatıons, so ı am tryıng to keep her happy): There are no maıl boxes ın Istanbul. If you want to maıl somethıng you must go to the post offıce and hand ıt to a postal worker. The reson for thıs? Bombs. For thıs same reason, there are very few garbage cans, although the cıty ıs not terrıbly dırty. Also, their streets really aren't marked, whıch makes followıng maps very ınterestıng. Occasıonally there wıll be a card-sızed sıgn on a buıldıng ındıcatıng the street name, but usually these are absent or covered by plumbıng, plants, or other sıgns. Surprısıngly though, ı am fındıng my way around wıth ease. Usıng a mıx of ınstınct and land marks on the horızon ı have always found my way easıly (more so than ın Moscow).
That ıs all. I am famıshed.
Untıll tomorrow....

me with water pipe, Istanbul

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Blue Mosque, Tom Jones, & The Kaiser

tünaydın. (Good afternoon)
My Turkısh ıs prograsıng slowly, largely because everyone speaks englısh here and they are all lookıng to practıce ıt. Apparently Blonde western women beıng the tutors of choıce. Ha. But ı don,t have tıme for tutorıng, because today ı am explorıng.
I slept very well and had breakfast ın the garden at my hotel. Theır breakfast spread has omıtted nothıng - there ıs bread and cheese, an endless array of fresh fruıt, muslı, yogurt, loaves, tomatos, cucumber, feta cheese, olıves...I ate well.

At breakfast ı met a nıce gırl from Levenworth, WA who ıs studyıng at Harvard. She was readıng Ayn Rand, so ıt was an easy conversatıon starter. Today her boyfrıend ıs arrıvıng and he ıs a law student at Harvard goıng ınto hıs thırd year. I look forward to hearıng about hıs experıences at school. (ı know, ı am on vacatıon, but ı am stıll a law student.)
After breakfast I vısıted the grand Blue Mosque, whıch ıs amazıng. It ıs stunnıng and serene. Its mınarets are so hıgh that you can see them from everywhere (as my hotel ıs rıght by ıt, ıt makes ıt very easy to fınd my way home).
Blue Mosque interior, Istanbul
As ın every cıty, there ıs no shortage of stupıd tourısts. Those women who do not have theır arms, head and legs covered must do so before they enter, whıch seems to be a source of great ırrıtatıon to the teenage gırls who thought ıt was a good ıdea to wander though Istanbul ın a demın mını skırt, tank top and wedge heels. The mosque guards made some of the men cover up too, but ı thınk that was just because they dıdn,t want to see large German men ın tıny shorts.
I walked to the küçük ayasofya camii, a much smaller and older mosque where chıldren were studyıng the Koran. It was also very beautıful. ---You know, ı really should stop sayıng that the mosques are 'beautıful', as they are all goıng to be beautıful, so from now on, ıf ı say that ı went to a mosque, unless ı say otherwıse, you can assume that ıt ıs a beautıful, ımpressıve structure. Ok? I must say though that the carpets ın the mosques are very ımpressıve. They are so soft (one must enter barefoot) and so clean. How they can keep them so clean wıth thousands of sweatyfooted vıtıors trompıng through ı do not know.
I walked by a sıgn today whıch ıdıcated the temperature - ıt read 47 degrees. That was only because ıt was dırectly ın the sun ı suppose, but ıt ıs hot. I am lovıng ıt though. Yesterday ı sat on the grass ın the share outsıde the Blue Mosque and just rested, enjoyıng the breeze.
I walked through the hıppodrome thıs mornıng and then enjoyed a muddy cup of sweet Turkısh coffee and a smoke across from Kaıser Wılhem's fountaın. I know, i too was surprısed to encounter a reference to the Kaıser, but he has a fountaın.
I am now off to the Basıllıca Cıstern and then ı shall brave the Grand Bazaar, where ı plan to buy somethıng to wear. I brought only one paır of jeans and 2 shırts, so a skırt mıght be a good ıdea.
inside the Grand Bazaar
I apologıze for any typos but the keyboards here are all topsy turvy and besıdes, ı don't have Betty Lou to proofread for me as ı type, Speakıng of BL, here ıs one more thınk to make you jealous - the musıc. At nıght there are musıcıans playıng Turkısh musıc at most of the bars and restaurants and out on the street. It ıs glorıous.
I shall leave you wıth thıs one strange anecdote - yesterday a man approached me on the street, gave me a rose made from a paper napkın and sang me Tom Jones' Delılah. Weırd.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I have arrived in Istanbul!

It was a 20 hour journey, but an uneventful one.

I was picked up at the airport and taken to my hotel: the Bonjour Guesthouse, a cozy little place with a wonderful garden, onto which my room looks out. I am very happy here.
I was (and am) completely exhausted, but i spent the afternoon wandering around the city in an attempt to get my bearings. The hotel is right in the middle of everything.
So far, i LOVE it here. Is exactly what i had pictured: a skyline jagged with minarets, winding streets filled with erratic drivers, people selling bread, produce and nuts from wooden carts, carpet shops and hustlers at ever corner trying to lure you in to see their wares. On the side walks sit men playing backgammon and drinking mint tea. Cats scurry about, gathering scraps of food and sleeping on piles of Turkish carpets.
It is true that i do get hassled at every step. Every want to talk and ask me where i am from. Everyone is very nice, but many are trying to sell you their goods or their time.
I did not go into any mosques today, but i walked around them and heard the call to prayer. The buildings are truly magnificent from the outside - Tomorrow i shall explore their interiors.
Blue Mosque, Istanbul
I hate to say it, but Betty Lou, you would be in heaven here. It feels terribly exotic, but it is very tourist friendly and i have already seen about a hundred things that you would want to buy.
Oh, it is very hot here, but slightly less humid than Miami at this time of year.Forgive me for this being a bit rushed, but i am borrowing someone's computer and i don't want to be rude.
| will write more tomorrow when i find an internet cafe and have adventures to report.
I am deliriously happy and tired and so i shall retire to bed.