A lot of emails come through the various mailboxes I monitor. Today, one came through from Citybike Wien with a newsletter announcing their Advent Calendar. The charming graphic reminded me of wonderful days we spent in November 2015 wandering around Vienna. We were there for about a week and luckily had a chance to visit the Christmas market on the first weekend it was open.
I get this newsletter because I rented through their bike sharing program while we were there. In the past, I have thought about unsubscribing but it was cumbersome getting through their website. All is well. Instead I am going to register with the Citybike Uphill team so I can enjoy the rest of the Advent calendar graphics from Hannah at hana.rts.
Update. After some more fooling around on the Citybike website, I found out I already have an account. After choosing my handle of “Capo in B,” a simple click has registered me with the uphill team. It might be a little difficult for me to manage this challenge as we are still stuck in Malaysia. But it is diverting to see that I still have € 1 in my account.
I don’t have strong memories of holidays growing up in a small town of Windom, Minnesota. Looking back through our albums, a lot of memories come flooding in around the experiences with our daughter growing up in Minnesota, Frankfurt, and then some side trips to Ecuador and Vancouver and Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur. Here’s one photo that captures this feeling for me today.
In case you are curious about Austrian Christmas Songs, the one quoted is here on youtube. Perhaps, I will return to this post if I am able to unlock any of the doors on the Advent Calendar. All the best to you wherever you are, whatever you celebrate, and more importantly enjoy all the memories of the seasons. Cheers.
We spent the first week of September in Ankara, capital of Turkey. With a lot of planning and organizing to do, there was only one day for serious exploring. It was a clear day, so we headed to Ankara Castle. A taxi took us to the neighborhood and we walked through the old town streets up to the entrance. Climbing up on the walls revealed views of the sprawling city. They don’t capture the feel of the shops and the Saturday morning activity.
Traditional residences line the streets
No guard rails. Careful.
Here are some random trivia and jokes:
What is turkey (the bird) in Turkish (Why does English call the fowl turkey anyway)?
What is Bruce Wayne’s favorite city in Turkey?
How is the southern city of Demre in Antalya province connected to Christmas?
Would you rather drive a car to Kars or a van to Van?
Turkish Bath – Hamam in Turkish or Hammam in English, Steam bath and spa originating in the Ottoman empires.
Turkish Coffee – Who needs a filter or expensive machine. Just boil it up strong in small pan. Lately, I don’t even need a small pan, just stirring boiling hot water into coffee grounds. Works best at sea level.
Turkish Delight – Lokum in Turkish. Sugary gummy sweet. The best ones have flower, fruit and nut flavors. Edmund in Chronicles of Narnia introduced many of us to Turkish Delight.
Turkish Towel – This is not the fluffy towel from Bed Bath and Beyond. This is a thin, absorbent cloth with tassels, called a Peshtemal.
We returned to the Asia side of Istanbul on returning from Baku, Azerbaijan. This time we stayed in the heart of the upmarket neighborhood of Moda in the Kadıköy district.
Cats are popular here, too. Here are some that try to capture streets from our neighborhood.
We hiked around a little bit, walking along the Marmara Sea and up Camlica Park (sitting next to a large new mosque).
Stopped by a nice little vegan restaurant a few blocks from our place, called Manca Ev Yemekleri. We have cut back on meat in the last six months. At this point, I had stopped eating carcasses but still ate dairy: yogurt and cheese, mainly and duck eggs when found. New culinary adventures began at our next stop.
What’s your favorite thing that starts with Turkish:
After our time in Mongolia, we continued west for another go round in Istanbul. This must make seven times we have visited, but the first time to spend time in summer.
Walking the streets and snapping photos of cats put me in a metaphysical mood. I happened to run across this story about the Dalai Lama:
Skeptic Carl Sagan asked the Dalai Lama what he would do if a fundamental tenet of his religion (reincarnation) were definitively disproved by science. The Dalai Lama answered, “If science can disprove reincarnation, Tibetan Buddhism would abandon reincarnation… but it’s going to be mighty hard to disprove reincarnation.”
from The Boundaries of Knowledge in Buddhism, Christianity, and Science”, by Paul David Numrich, p. 13, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, ISBN 9783525569870
This idea appeals to me. Some beliefs might be able to be disproved by science, but it will take a long time. According to advanced geometry, any given angle cannot be trisected (divided into three equal angles) with a straight edge and compass. However, given sufficient time and effort (possibly centuries), a straight edge and compass can trisect any angle to any precision required (±.1 or ±.005 etc), just never exact (± 0.0).
I digress. What I really want to know is this: if reincarnation exists, will I come back as human or animal or some other entity. If so, how do I live an imperfect life just bad enough to come back as a cat in Istanbul, preferably in the Fulya or Cihangir neighborhood.
While I ponder, here are my recent photos of cats all over Istanbul:
I remember hearing the news reports of the Turkish invasion during the summer of 1974. It was just another part of the world in turmoil. Over the years, the divided island and divided city of Nicosia became just another bureaucratic nightmare. In the last ten years, I have read accounts of the process to normalize the divisions. There is hope as talks and discussions continue intensely. With some trepidation, we planned two weeks there in December 2016.
On December 4, we flew from Istanbul Turkey to Ercan International which resides in the Northern Turkish side of Cyprus. From the Airport a Taxi deposited us at the Turkish Border for the Agios Demetios checkpoint. As we pulled our bags over to the Greek side, we were met in the middle by our host in her SUV. After stopping to talk to the Greek authorities and show passports, we were taking in the sights of the Greek side. After a week, we pulled our bags down Ledras Street and walked through the checkpoints back to the Turkish side where we stayed four more days.
Even though it was a bit chilly some days, we enjoyed both the Greek and the Turkish sides of the island. I feel that our sightseeing was historically interesting more than spectacularly photogenic. Here are my mementos in no particular order in the spirit of reunification.
Büyük Han, traditional caravanserai and market
Kakopetria near Mount Olympos, South Cyprus
Mountains of Northern Cyprus
A good library in Lefkosa
Selfie taking Cherub on way to Pafos ruins
The antiquities at Pafos
Ledras Street Checkpoint from Levkosa
Lefkosa traditional street
A note on nomenclature: I use Nicosia as the English name for the entire capital city of Cyprus. Lefkosa refers to the Northern Turkish half of Nicosia, and Levkosa refers to the Southern Greek half of Nicosia.
Black tea is called Chai in Russia, throughout the Balkans, and throughout Turkey. In Turkish it is written Çay, in Russian Чай. This is not the Indian spiced milk and tea mixture. This is the clear tea brewed strong to which hot water is added to cut the bitterness and to serve it piping hot. The samovar still plays an important part in providing boiling water and keeping the tea warm at the proper temperature. Even today, tea is served using electric samovars or kettles with the same principal of boiling water maintaining the strong tea at the proper temperature.
I grew up with a samovar that was originally brought from Russia to Windom, Minnesota by Mennonites around 1920. A traditional samovar must be well ventilated, and usually started outside. Our samovar in this picture was never used to heat water, but it was tested and would have worked.
We traveled from Trabzon to Batumi, Georgia by way of Rize. This region provides tea for all of Turkey. The banner image of this post shows the tea plantations around the bay on the Black Sea. Considering tea is consumed by the bail, it is amazing that this small region can produce so much.
What really excited me is on our tour of the Sümela Greek monastery near Trabzon,
we stopped at a shop that was serving tea from a working wood fired Samovar. I really felt right at home here.
Samovars come in many different forms. Here’s a Google search:
Since Izmir, we have traveled by bus routes bordered by snow swept mountains. The weather has been cool with lows around freezing and highs varying from 5° C (41° F) to 15° C (59° F). After leaving Sivas for Erzurum, the temperature started dropping and the plains between the mountain ridges retained snow. The day was clear and sunny so the views were spectacular. Being unable to capture the magnificence of the mountain scenes from inside the bus was frustrating. The photos did turn out halfway decent but nothing compared to traveling through it for seven hours.
The bus station for Erzurum lies several kilometers out of town. The kind bus conductor helped us get a minibus shuttle into the city and a taxi to our somewhat obscure hotel. The streets were a bit slippery with the remnants of previous snow storms.
The next morning we awoke to find about 10 cm (4 in) of freshly fallen white stuff. Although we have seen Mosques in snow in Sarajevo and Istanbul, these photos show the peacefulness the best.
We left Mediterranean Izmir for the continental climate of Konya and the Cappadocia region of Turkey. We are overwhelmed by the experience. We have taken so many pictures at each turn, it is hard to decide among them. Unfortunately, some moments of this journey passed without a proper picture. I only hope that you can feel our wonder.
So many kindnesses by so many people. The minibus driver using his cellphone to contact the hotel to be sure he dropped us off at the best spot. This occurred at night after riding nine hours. Another time, the bus conductor alerted the driver to stop the bus so he could run back to return the purse that a passenger forgot.
So much jaw-dropping natural beauty. Again, my iPad and my technique does not do it justice. The splashes that I post here are just a mirage of the experience.
Such interesting hotel experiences reflecting the Turkish spirit. The Hich Hotel (hiç in Turkish corresponds to never and whatsoever) raises the concept of service to a different level. Oriental Cave Suites with their personal touch helps all travelers that come to their door.
It is my wish for you that wherever you are on your journey, your heart will find very heart of experience.
We left cold Istanbul and came south for an early taste of Spring. The first two days, we stayed near the city center and explored both old and new. Over three thousand years, Izmir saw the Hittite civilization, the Greek expansion, the Roman occupation, the Byzantine Empire, the Ottoman Golden Age, and the Turkish Republic. Of these, the oldest ruins that are readily viewable come from the Roman Period. My photos capture some of the spirit, but they do not come close to the magnificence of the experience.
We moved to an apartment across the bay. From there we took a couple of day trips. One was down to Selcuk. The original city of Ephesus is found nearby.
It was interesting figuring out how to get to and from the ruins using city bus, metro, train, shuttle bus, and suburban train. We were lucky with clear skies at the ruins while the city of Izmir had showers all day. In the quiet recesses of the ruins I tried to imagine how the general merchants and workers lived during the first and second centuries of the Christian Era. What marks would I have left on the marble stones?
Recently, I stumbled across an article in Gazete Kadıköy which had an interesting article on Street Art coming to Kadıköy, Istanbul. I decided to translate this article as well as go to view the street art in person. I was very impressed by the artists’ skills. They are certainly masters. However, their art work was a little enigmatic. I wished I could have had the artist with me to explain it. Let me recommend that you look and decide.
The “Mural/Street Art Festival” is sponsored by the Municipality of Kadıköy and Çekül Vakfı (The Foundation for the Protection and Promotion of the Environment and Cultural Heritage) and carries a special place as the first time a building’s entire façade is to be painted in Turkey.
I have a hard time taking photographs that capture the atmosphere of a Mosque or Cathedral. There is a mystical atmosphere in the filtered light, the acoustics below a dome, and the believers mixed with the curious. I am happy with these two pictures created from my iPad. The first is a panorama shot from the base to the dome. The second is a collage of kaleidoscope images.
Looking back I wish I would have tried other techniques when photographing the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade, Et’hem Bey Mosque in Tirana, and Holy Savior Church in Skopje.
After leaving Daughter at Franklin U in Lugano, Switzerland in August, we have journeyed down the Balkans. It was fulfilling on many levels as we discovered new freedoms, new cultures, new friends bordered by our daily life. On Saturday, December 13, Wife and I rendezvoused with Daughter at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. I am still so awed by all that came together. I count at least eight journeys by train, twelve by bus, and two planes taken by Daughter. Here we are eating a typical Turkish/Kurdish breakfast in the New Year.
The last leg of from Greece to Turkey was perhaps the most arduous. We spent a few days in Alexandroupolis, Greece rather than ride the bus all the way from Thessaloniki. Saturday, December 6, almost all shops in Alex_city were closed. I checked internet calendars and found no holidays. It dawned on us finally that it was St Nikolas Day. In years past we have stuffed little presents in each others shoes the night before.
Alexandroupolis was a typical fishing community with Saint Nikolas as their patron saint. The Orthodox St. Nikolas Cathedral organized a procession through the city to the port to bless the fisherman and their boats.
The next day we were waiting at the port for the bus to Istanbul. With the clouds building, we hoped the bus (originating in Athens) would arrive on time. Unfortunately, the bus arrived 40 minutes late while the downpour arrived 20 minutes late. There was no way to keep dry. We clamored aboard. The border crossing took nearly two hours, at least an hour standing around waiting in the wind and flurries.
This was our first overland travel at night so we saw very little of the Turkish countryside. Although we understood there were connections from the main bus depot, it was not clear how this was going to work out. Our spirits picked up as the bus conductor served snacks and hot drinks. On arriving in the main Otogar (from the French Auto Gare for bus station), we were directed to a shuttlebus for Taksim. Amazingly, after wandering all over the place, we stopped within what turned out to be a ten minute walk to our hotel. The staff settled us in and we had ourselves a nice hot tea.
Over the days, we have settled into our neighborhood. Although it is a rainy, cold season, we take advantage of the alternate days when the weather is clear to explore neighborhoods and architecture.
The old man sits at the window after his morning walk. In a philosophical mood, he assays the traveling of his life. For him there is always that anxiety coming to a different country. Even though he visited France twenty or thirty times, arriving in Marseille the past summer made him nervous. It is not important how safe a city or a country is. These statistics are useless when one falls victim to a pickpocket, mugger, or scammer.
He mulls the many thoughts on travel safety but sits perplexed trying organized them. Lists for traveling safely abound on so many websites and highlight so many chapters in books.
Reading these articles may not make the tourist feel secure. The old man remembers how confident the family felt living in Frankfurt from 1998 – 2003 reading the International Herald Tribune (IHT) everyday. Then, the IHT began to include a supplement with English summaries of the Frankfurter Allgemeine. This included local disturbances. After reading about altercations in the neighborhood, the family began viewing daily routines a little more seriously. Its that old dilemma, “does a bicycle helmet for a child make the parent feel safer, or make parent more anxious with the realization that a bicycle can really be dangerous?”
Instead of a negative list such as:
Keep valuables out of sight,
Stay close to home after dark,
Avoid both empty and too crowded streets.
What could he write to encourage you to visit new places?
First, realize that no matter where you go, generally, people all over are good. They work at jobs, they have families, they share love, just like you. In the last six months, people have been so kind. A woman selling bread on the street in Sophia speaking no English used her cell phone to call a taxi when the scheduled one failed to show.
Second, take a look around your neighborhood. Get up early, take the essentials (room key, a few dollars, and hotel address/phone) and take a little walk before breakfast. Explore. Is there a convenience store handy? What products can you recognize? Is there a park? Where does the hotel staff hang out? Can you walk on sidewalks or do you have to walk in the street? At this time, you can see people doing what needs to be done and hardly paying any attention to you.
Third, be a decent fellow. You are a guest, and you may end up making a few deposits into the bank of experience, BOE. Personally, the old man has received very good returns on investments in the BOE. He thinks modesty is the term that fits well. Carrying expensive gadgets and jewelry draws the wrong type of attention. When it comes to alcohol, partake moderately or not at all. Returning home late and drunk is an open invitation to difficulties. As you know, the travel dollars stretch farther when snacks along with drinks (especially, wine and beer) are purchased at a corner store for consumption in the evening at hotel.
So the old man, lets the newspaper slip as his eyelids close. Resting his eyes, he shakes his head remembering younger days with less concerns: walking home in the dead of night between cemeteries, hitchhiking alone over the Andes after the coup d’état deposing Allende, wandering lost on the subway in Soviet Moscow after eight days on the Transiberian Railroad.
The first four photos from Istanbul show normal life in the neighborhood. Note that the inset on the quiet street shows a Christmas tree up the stairs in one of the alleys. The last one is a supermarket in Skopje, Macedonia.
I have just completed the book, The Museum of Innocence, by the Turkish author and Nobel Prize winner, Orhan Pamuk. This book arrived electronically from the Hennepin County Library. My interest in the narrator is in the descriptions of people and places as he winds his way through our neighborhood in the 1970’s and 80’s. The main character is memorable for his obsessive love of a younger woman and his raki (Turkish brandy) drinking. The only way I can deal with him is by viewing his life as an allegory of Turkish obsession with its national image during political upheavals of that time.
The museum actually exists a short walk from our apartment. The novel contains an admission ticket.
Since I read it digitally, I only have a digital ticket of admission. So my visit is only through electronic means as you see here.