Moda Days, Back from Baku

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.

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A cheery little restaurant.
What’s your favorite thing that starts with Turkish:

  1. … Bath
  2. … Coffee
  3. … Delight
  4. … Towel

Answers from previous post:

  1. Freddy Mercury – Born: Farrokh Bulsara on September 5, 1946, in Zanzibar, Tanzania of Parsi parents practicing Zoroastrians
  2. Amahl and the Night Visitors – The three Magi on their way to honor Jesus in Bethlehem are Zoroastrian Priests.
  3. Ateshgah of Baku – Fire Temple – Originally a Zoroastrian Temple with natural flame.
  4. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Music theme is Richard Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (Thus spoke Zoroaster). Reference to a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

A Month in Malta

We spent four weeks in Malta, living in the Sliema district across the bay from historical Valletta city. Malta is the smallest country of the European Union. Daughter met up with us for three weeks on her Summer break from University. Initially, we wondered if we would run out of activities, but Malta has so much history and so much variety of experiences.  Here are my highlights.  I was aiming to post only five pictures, but I just could not choose from all our experiences.  We really enjoyed every day there.

Two things I carry with me:

  1. Maltese is a Semitic language related to Arabic but written using Roman Alphabet.  Contrast with South African Afrikaans, a Germanic Language written originally with Arabic script.
  2. Mdina and other old cities have many narrow twisty streets.  This was to confuse invading pirates. The narrow, curved streets near the Taksim Area of Istanbul serve the same purpose for protestors trying to avoid the riot police.

 

Here are some travel hints.  We took one of the hop-on-hop-off tours around the north island.  We learned a few things and saw a lot of places even though the experience could be a lot better.  Sliema is so convenient to the Valletta Ferry and bus connections around the islands.  We bought several twelve trip Talinga Bus cards, one card can be used for three people.  These took us all over, even to the Gozo Ferry. There is a Talinga smart phone app that was amazingly accurate in providing realtime bus arrival times at the stops near us.

The Gozo Ferry is interesting.  You only pay when you return.

The Largest Mosque of Istanbul

Süleymaniye Mosque

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.

Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque
Suleymaniye Mosque – Kaleidoscopic interior

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.

Church of St. Sava, Belgrade
Church of St. Sava, Belgrade
Et'hem Bey Mosque, Tirana
Et’hem Bey Mosque, Tirana
Holy Savior Church, Skopje
Holy Savior Church, Skopje

Appointment in Istanbul

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.

Turkish/Kurdish breakfast
Turkish/Kurdish breakfast

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.

St. Nikolas Day procession in Alexandroupolis
St. Nikolas Day procession in Alexandroupolis

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.

International Bus Stop in Alexandroupolis
International Bus Stop in Alexandroupolis
After rain and snow, our bus gets cleaned under a full moon.
After rain and snow, our bus gets cleaned under a full moon.

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.

Our little street connects to the rest of the world via stairways.
Our little street at the top connects to the rest of the world via stairways.
Looking across the Golden Horn
Looking across the Golden Horn
SultanAhmet
The incredible domes of Sultan Ahmet
Steps overlooking the Bosphoros
Steps overlooking the Bosphoros
A cat sleeps contentedly in the Cihangir district.
A cat sleeps contentedly in the Cihangir district.
I started a collection of graffiti on my facebook page.
I started a collection of graffiti on my facebook page.

Feeling Safe

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.

A nice chair put out for a cat
A nice chair put out for a cat
Fresh bread delivered awaiting the coffee shop owner
Fresh bread delivered awaiting the coffee shop owner
Some streets should be explored during daylight.
Some streets should be explored during daylight.
Istiklal Street is always busy.
Istiklal Street is always busy.
A supermarket provides a window into culture.
A supermarket in Skopje provides a window into culture. What is available, how is it displayed, do you weigh your own vegetables, how do imported goods compare in price?

Digital Books / Digital Museums

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.

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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.

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Here’s a tour of The Museum of Innocence