Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 retrospective


Oh, 2012. You started with such promise, yet you end with such uncertainty as we all wait to hear whether or not we're about to plunge over the so-called fiscal cliff.

I know I say this nearly every year, but 2012 was a year of change. It started in early January, when I accepted an offer to move to another company. Although I loved my job at the company where I had worked for 1.5 years, the new company offered me an exciting new professional challenge and some appealing benefits. The downside? I traded in an easy four-mile, 15-minute commute for one that's typically anywhere from 40-50 minutes. Oh, and I miss my carpool buddy like crazy!

Something really different about my current job is . . . we only do business in three states. I'm still adjusting to this. I went from working for a global company (2000-2010) to working for a US-only company (2010-2012) to working for a regional company. Nowadays, instead of traveling to places like Sydney and Shanghai and Vienna for work, I travel to exotic destinations like . . . Greenville, South Carolina. Good thing I'm really liking this gig so far. :)

One of my New Year's Resolutions for the last 20 years or so has been to lose weight. I finally did it in 2012. I still have a ways to go until I reach my ultimate goal, but I'm well over halfway there. I feel great and my health has vastly improved. Big accomplishment!!!

We had a very mild winter this year, and spring came in like a lamb. Highlights of the spring months included going from the coast to the mountains for our birthdays: We celebrated mine in Wilmington and S's in Asheville. In May, we welcomed a visitor from Vienna who hung out with us for a few days on her first-ever USA trip! We took her to the farm and to the beach, and showed her all around our fair city of Charlotte.

Before we knew it, summer was here. In June, I attended my 30th year high school reunion. It was great to reconnect with 'old' friends and to learn what everyone was up to. Also in June, we took a long weekend and went up to West Virginia, where along with S's brother, we went white water rafting! Now that was fun.  It was my first time rafting the New River and I'm so ready to go back and try the more challenging Gauley River.

There's not a lot going on at the farm in the heat of the summer, but we did have our family reunion as per usual in August. It was nice to see aunts, uncles, and cousins. Also in August, we learned that the owners of the house we'd been renting since summer 2011 wanted to sell. We made an offer, and in mid-September, we became homeowners again. Our house is a small bungalow -- much, much smaller and cozier than the house we left behind in Indianapolis. But it's perfect for us and it only takes a couple of hours to clean, which is awesome. AND we don't have to mow the lawn because that's included in our HOA fees. Woot!!! I think we will stay here for a while. :)

Fall is our favorite season, but we didn't have much of a fall this year. We went to Turkey in October for vacation. It was a trip of a lifetime and we enjoyed it tremendously! I wrote about 20 blog entries about our trip so if you want, you can find links to them on the right side under the Previous Posts header. Bottom line: I think Turkey was my most favorite vacation ever -- even though we had to leave Istanbul a day early because of Hurricane Sandy. 

Then the holidays were here. We enjoyed Thanksgiving in the "new" house, and spent Christmas at the farm. I know I wrote last year that 2011 was the best Christmas, but 2012 Christmas was even better. Our family gathering included two new people as my nephew brought his girlfriend and my niece's boyfriend came along, too. (Another sign that life is just one change after another! Gosh, how quickly those two have grown up!)

Oh, 2012. As the Year of the Dragon it was supposed to be "My" year . . . I was born in a Dragon year. I guess it really did turn out to be "My" year after all. There was lots of change. Lots of transformation and personal growth, too. And adventures! Lots of adventures! So goodbye, 2012, and thank you for all your gifts.

Bring it on, 2013.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Foggy sunrise


We had a beautiful foggy sunrise at the farm yesterday morning. I hope everyone out there who celebrates it had a wonderful Christmas . . . and that you will all have a prosperous and healthy 2013! Cheers, everyone. :)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

2012 favorites

Stuff I read

Favorite book of the year . . .  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

General fiction . . . Bliss by O.Z. Livaneli

Historical fiction . . . The Dark Monk by Oliver Pötzsch

Crime thriller . . . The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Mercy outside of North America)

New-to-me author . . . (tie) The Righteous by Michael Wallace and Exit 22 by p.m. terrell

Young adult fiction . . . The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Novella . . . Snatched by Karin Slaughter

Nonfiction  . . .  Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

Magazine . . . (tie) Runner's World and Huffington Post Magazine


Music I listened to

Band . . . Imagine Dragons

Artist . . . Pitbull*

Album . . . (tie) Night Visions by Imagine Dragons and Slipstream by Bonnie Raitt

Song . . .  (tie) Some Nights by Fun; Hold On by Alabama Shakes; and Crystallize by Lindsey Stirling

Song that most of my friends have probably never heard of . . . Genesis by Grimes

Artist Discovery . . . (tie) Imagine Dragons and Lindsey Stirling

Local (North Carolina) music . . . (tie) Carolina Chocolate Drops and Trinity Seed

Song rediscovery . . . Ready To Go by Republica

Workout tune . . . We Run The Night by Havana Brown featuring Pitbull

*I listened to Pitbull more than any other artist this year because so many of his collaborations with other artists are on my workout playlist!


Things I watched

TV show . . . Homeland

New TV show . . . (tie) The Newsroom and Scandal

News/Current Events TV show . . . GPS with Fareed Zakaria (CNN)

TV movie . . . Hatfields & McCoys (miniseries)

Full-length movie . . . The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Theater Movie . . . The Hunger Games (in all fairness, this was the ONLY movie we saw in theaters this year! I wanted to see others, but we just never made it.)


Miscellaneous things I liked or enjoyed

Game . . . Words With Friends

Social Network . . . Twitter

Web site . . . My Fitness Pal

iPhone/iPad app . . . My Fitness Pal

Vacation . . . Turkey

Weekend Getaway . . . Asheville

Exercise . . . completing the couch-to-5K program!

Shopping . . . online at Duluth Trading Company and LLBean

New store . . . Whole Foods SouthPark!

Coffee . . . Starbucks Blonde Veranda beans

The 'downside' to losing weight

My primary focus this year has been to lose weight and get healthy. This is something I should have done a long time ago, but never made it priority until this year. I could examine the reasons for that but I think basically, I just wasn't ready.

Despite my weight loss success, I'm still in the obese category according to the BMI charts. A lot of people find this hard to believe, but it's true! Call it the curse of the big-boned tall person. As of this week my BMI is 30.4. Not only do I need to get it below 30, I need to get it below 25 so that I'm not considered overweight. That means I need to lose -- at a minimum -- another 35-40 pounds. Ideally, I'd like to lose another 50-60 pounds.

I've lost 5 sizes. Yes. 5 SIZES. I'm now wearing a size I haven't worn since I was in my early 30s. If I can lose one more size, I'll be the size I was in high school. And if I can lose two more sizes, I'll be the size I was when I was 19 or 20 and in the best shape of my life. It's reachable!

But the more I lose, the more difficult it is to lose. In the beginning of this weight loss journey, I lost 3-4 pounds a week. Then 2-3 pounds a week. Then 1-2 pounds a week. I realize I'm gaining muscle from working out, but my loss has now slowed to about a half pound a week and sometimes less than that. It can get very frustrating, and it doesn't help that the holiday season is here with all its temptations.

When I finally reach my destination, I'll have to fight stay there. Maintenance is indeed on my mind already. I know that I'll have to eat this way and exercise for the rest of my life. And since our bodies get used to how we do things, I'll have to shake it up a bit every now and then. I know that. But back to the current situation.

I've noticed a couple of downsides to losing weight. The downsides don't cancel out the benefits, but they are downsides nonetheless. So for my friends who are also on this journey, I want to give you the heads-up about a couple of things.

1. The more weight you lose, the older you're going to look.

One of the first places I "lost weight" was in my neck and face. It has been quite confusing to look in the mirror and see that although I've lost my double chin and can see my cheekbones again, I can also see wrinkles that were never there before. To me, it's especially apparent around my eyes and mouth. I hate it, but I know it's better than being obese.

I guess what I'm saying is, be prepared to see an older person looking back at you in the mirror. You may even need to (or want to) start a special savings account for Botox and fillers. I know I do!

2. Get ready to spend some money on new clothes.

When I first started this journey, I had three sizes of clothes in my closet. One size I could wear; the other sizes were a bit too small yet for some reason (ever the optimist) I kept them, which turned out to be a good thing. Those clothes that were too small are now way too big.

I've never been a used clothing type of person, but knowing that I wouldn't be staying in one size for very long (again, ever the optimist) I got over my fear of cooties and became a used-clothing shopper. I hung out at my local Goodwill store at least once a week, and I scored some really great deals, including two cashmere sweaters (for $3.99 each), an Eileen Fisher top that still had the tags on it (also $3.99) and a bunch of other stuff. I actually found it quite therapeutic to go through all the clothes, touching each piece and looking at the brand tags, even though it would sometimes take me a couple of hours.

Then one day I looked in my closet and realized: 75% of the clothes in my closet are not . . . Me. I'm really an L.L. Bean kind of gal. Give me comfort, preferably cotton, and basic black. I don't want to look like a desperate male bird looking for a mate -- and I hate, hate, repeat HATE non-natural fibers unless we're talking exercise clothes.

I cleaned out my closet, "got rid of" (by offering to family/friends or donating) everything that was too big or not my style, and then made a list of things I needed to replace. I only replaced very basic things (black shirt, white shirt, jeans, dress pants for work, bras/sports bras, etc.) I now have all my clothes in one closet, which in itself is a miracle, but just goes to show you that I had way too many to start with.

But I digress. The point is, as you lose weight, you're going to have to get new clothes. You're going to have to get rid of some things (which is really hard for some people) and you're going to have to get new things (which can be very expensive, but there are options.)

3. Be prepared for people to treat you differently. 

I've saved this one for last because it's the most difficult to write about, but it's the truth, and I want you to know. If you've been obese for a long time, you get used to people either ignoring you or feeling safe with you. I may still be in the obese category, but it's been rather curious how suddenly I'm not so invisible anymore. People open doors for me. They hold the elevator. People who didn't seem to see me before suddenly smile and say hello and try to chat me up. To be honest, it's a little creepy at times.

As always, I wish you success with your journey.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Weight loss update

It’s been a while since I wrote about my weight loss program. There’s a reason for that: I’ve hit a wall! I was doing great before vacation – down 58 pounds and feeling awesome from regular exercise. My weight loss coach gave me a plan to follow, but what she didn't realize is how different things are when you're outside your typical American weight loss comfort zone.

For example, here in Matthews we have sidewalks everywhere. If I wanted to, I could step outside my front door and start walking and walk all the way to uptown Charlotte (and beyond), or to Pineville, Indian Trail, or Mint Hill -- on sidewalks. Well, the rest of the world isn't like Matthews. We've got lots of parks, too, including two within walking distance of my house. There's even a gym and a very nice YMCA just a short distance away. So when I'm here, there's no excuse.

When I'm at the farm, sure, I can get out there and do farm work, but in terms of fitness walking, jogging, or cycling, I put my life in my hands every time I step out there. People drive 55mph (or faster!) on the road leading to the farm, and they're not used to seeing people out there exercising on the road. Now that it's hunting season, I have to make sure I'm wearing some sort of bright colors not found in nature when I'm out there, or risk getting a load of buckshot into my ass. Yet I still get out there.

But I digress.

Before we went to Istanbul, I  checked our boutique hotel's web sit and learned that they didn't have a fitness center. One nearby hotel had one. I contacted them via email about getting a day pass, but they said the facilities were only for their guests.

My point, and I did have one: I knew before we went that I was going to be stepping outside this aforementioned American weight loss comfort zone.

My strategy: We did a lot of walking in Istanbul. One day we walked about 5-6 miles through winding, hilly streets and over the bridge, as we made our way from Taksim Square back to the Golden Horn). I never felt like I overate, and even though I did succumb to the beautiful homemade breads and most delicious baklava in the universe, I never felt like I "overdid" it. (I'm lucky that I have a built-in "shut off" system that prevents me from overeating. I just can't eat past a certain point.) When I got back home, I’d gained 3 pounds. “That’s not too bad!” I thought. “I’ll get that off quickly. No problem.”

Then came Thanksgiving.

I wanted a traditional Thanksgiving dinner this year with turkey and all the trimmings, having not had one for the previous two years. Of course, I could've chosen to leave it at turkey breast and some greens, but I wanted it all: the stuffing, the green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, corn pudding, pumpkin pie. So I told myself things like: "Hey! Thanksgiving only comes once a year!" and "I’m not going to worry about it until the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Hopefully by then, all the leftovers will be gone and I get back to my plan.”

And I enjoyed Thanksgiving. At my weigh-in the week after Thanksgiving, I had only gained a pound. It gave me a bit of an attitude, as in: "HA! For three days, I had whatever I wanted, and I only gained one measly pound! I! Am! Invicible!"

Which is a good feeling to have. But not necessily a smart one, if you know what I mean. Overconfidence can kill.

Three weeks ago, I started my half marathon training plan. The first week went well, and I thought: "Hey, I can do this! meaning: I can do my training AND maintain my eating plan.

At some point during the second week, I started getting horrible headaches. They hit me during the last part of the exercise (for example, in the last mile of a five mile walk) and then they literally knock me off my feet. The only thing I can do is lie down in bed, close my eyes, and wait a few hours. There's no food, no pill, no amount of acupressure or massage that will make it go away. They're not migraines, but are almost as debilitating.

Houston, we have a problem.

Turns out, I may not be eating enough, or eating enough of the "right" foods. I’ve done everything my weight loss coach has recommended (such as eating a starch 30 minutes before I work out) -- but IT’S NOT WORKING.

Something's got to give. I'm either going to have to give up the half marathon or the diet, because apparently I can't do both. I do want the scale to start going down again soon. I don't want to become complacent and satisfied with where I am now, when I'm really only a little over halfway to my goal.

Anyway, as of this week I'm officially down 56 pounds, which means that between mid-October and this week, I have a net gain of two pounds. I need to find a way to get out of this funk. I will find a way.

To be continued.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dog show


We caught Chelsea checking out the National Dog Show this weekend. She sat like this for several minutes. All that was missing was the popcorn. :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

Cornucopia

Why, yes, that IS a Turkish carpet in the background there on the floor! And yes, that lovely table covering came from Turkey, also! And I'm not talking turkey.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday here! There was no dieting in our house yesterday. We enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving meal: roasted turkey, cornbread stuffing, corn pudding, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, apple pie and pumpkin pie. All the leftovers have been eaten now except the turkey, which I think we'll be eating until Christmas because there's so much left.

Hope you had a good one, too! :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The taste of Vienna?


As my family, friends, and regular readers know, I lived in Vienna, Austria in 2008 and fell in love with that city. Last weekend, S & I were out shopping at a local retailer that specializes in imported foods and other goods, and discovered they have a selection of Manner wafers. (Unfortunately, it looks like someone thinks they are a product of Australia -- at least that's what it looks like in the fine print below the label. I might have to return to the store to check this out and correct them if necessary!) They also have the chocolates I jokingly refer to as Mozart's Balls. If only they had Julius Meinl coffee beans! 

Clash of colors


I've been back in North Carolina for just over two years, but it still amazes me that we're 3-4 weeks behind Indiana in terms of fall color. The colors here were at their peak late last week and early this week. Here are some photos I took in the SouthPark area just before the big rain on Thursday.



I must admit that the red maples are my favorite. If I could, I'd plant red maple trees everywhere. I'd be the Johnny Appleseed of red maples. :)


The downside to a late fall color season is that, well, autumn colors kind of clash with holiday colors. My brain still can't get used to this. But the remaining leaves won't last much longer. I'm going to enjoy them while I can!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The day after the election

The 2012 election is over. I'm glad, because from my perspective as a resident of a swing state, it was the worst election ever. For most of the year, we in North Carolina have been inundated with negativity via billboards, print and television advertisements -- from both sides of the political spectrum. They say there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, and I can now say that I've seen or heard them all.

But the thing that has shocked me most is . . . people's behavior. I've seen a side of people this election cycle that I've never seen before. Long-time friends and even a few family members have totally shocked me with stuff they wrote on Facebook or said in random conversations. I even had three people unfriend me on Facebook, most likely because I "liked" political candidates that they didn't. Which is interesting, because I wasn't nearly as political as they were, and I didn't unfriend them for liking the other candidate.

Look, here's the deal. The world is not going to end because Obama was re-elected. It's not the end of democracy or the beginning of the apocalypse, either. It's just another day, the day after the election. I would say the same thing if Romney had been elected.

Here's another deal. The world has changed. The world is changing. It will continue to change. This country has changed. This country is changing. It, too, will continue to change. Maybe things will be better and maybe they won't. But I don't think we will ever go back to the way we were, nor do I think we should. Does this mean we should all be depressed and curl up and die? No, I don't think so.

I'd like to see us lay the bitterness aside and work together for the good of our country and our world. Let's take this passion that many of us felt and turn it into something positive. Let's roll up our sleeves and get some stuff done.

I'm Mariandy, and I approve this message!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Turkish food


I know that some of my readers are interested in food, so while we were in Turkey, I took some food photos. This entry is for educational purposes only! (Meaning: Mom, if you're reading this, it's not another example of me being a food addict! I promise!)

Above: Kofte (meatballs) with potatoes, rice, and grilled pepper and tomato. This is one of the more typical dishes that we saw in Istanbul. The potatoes are in a tomato sauce.

Below: the Meza appetizer platter . . . one of my favorites. Stuffed pepper, eggplant, hummus, potatoes, stuffed grape leaves, and some other stuff.


Next: Turkish pizza! The crust is pita.


Speaking of bread, I loved seeing these displays at some of the restaurants. I've never seen bread this big!!!



I also had the most delicious lentil soup ever in Istanbul. Again, notice the yummy bread. Yes, I'll admit it. I ate lots of carbs on this trip and OK, I gained four pounds. But it was my vacation, ya know?



Pomegranates for making juice . . . And döner kebaps (shawarma) -- big hunks of chicken and lamb cooked on a spit and shaved thin.


Here's a shot of one of the many juice carts in Istanbul. There's nothing like fresh pomegranate juice. I could drink it every day!



I'll admit it . . . My favorite thing of all was the baklava and other sweets! :)



The thing I'm going to miss most is the apple tea. True, it's not a tea in the real sense, and it tastes a lot like powdered apple cider. But it's good.


Well, folks, that's the last of the blog entries on Turkey. I hope you've enjoyed them. Now that we're back home, we need to get back with the program. You know what that means! No more carbs for a while! And no more food photos - at least until the next vacation! :)


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Goodbye, Istanbul

We were supposed to leave Istanbul tomorrow, but a little storm got in our way. This morning I woke up to these words: OUR FLIGHT TO NEWARK HAS BEEN CANCELLED. We knew about the hurricane, so I can't say I was too surprised to hear this. However, I'll admit that I was secretly hoping the hurricane would delay our return to the USA, not hasten it. I had something like this in my mind: "Oh, well! We can't go back home yet so let's just stay here in Turkey a while longer! Or maybe hop over to Greece! Or perhaps we can head up to Munich or Frankfurt and hang out there for a few days, then fly back directly to Charlotte on Lufthansa!"

We packed our bags, had a quick breakfast, settled our hotel bill, and headed to Atatürk airport. Where we waited. And waited. And waited. I kid you not about the waiting. We got to the airport around 10:15AM and waited in (several) lines for over three hours.

When we finally got to the head of the line, the United Airlines agent strongly encouraged us to take TODAY'S flight to Newark, which was not full. Ah, Newark. Greece or Germany it is not! But if this is what's meant to be, it's what's meant to be. You see, I'm still on Turkish time and accepting things as Insh'Allah.

As I write this now I'm 34,000 feet up in the air, flying over Ireland, with six hours and 37 minutes left until we land in Newark, according to the handy-dandy map and info on the seatback screen. Since the flight's not full, I've got the whole row to myself, and Sandy has one to herself behind me. It's almost as good as business class.

Yet I have to admit: I'm disappointed. I didn't want my vacation to end so abruptly! I needed that one more day! I didn't get to take one last walk past Ayasofya and the Sultanahmet Camii. I didn't get to do the shopping I planned to do today (thinking that today would be my last full day there so I would have plenty of time). I'm sorry to say, there will be several people who will not get souvenirs. Blame it on the hurricane.

But the most disappointing thing is that I didn't get to say a proper goodbye to Istanbul.

I bet you're wondering: why Istanbul? We could have gone anywhere else in the world. Well, it goes like this: Sandy's brother Mike had a "special" birthday this year -- you know, one of those that end in a zero. Since it was indeed a milestone, over a year ago Sandy and I proposed that we go on an interesting trip this year. Turns out, Istanbul was at the top of Mike's list. He's an architect and a big fan of Byzantine and Ottoman history, art, and architecture. So to Istanbul we went.

Although it wasn't high on my list, I'm always up for going some place I've never been before. Turns out, we all fell in love with Istanbul. It exceeded our expectations tenfold! Istanbul is such an amazing, vibrant city, with so much diversity. It's beautiful, too, especially the areas near the water. And the history . . . I still get speechless.

I'm glad I went. And I would recommend for YOU to go if you've never been. Seriously. You must put Istanbul on your list.

Dear Istanbul, thank you for a lovely time. I'm taking you with me in my heart . . . and you'll be in my memory for as long as I have one. Maybe someday I'll visit you again. Until then, I wish you peace. Lots of love from Mariandy. :)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cruising the Bosphorus

 
The weather the afternoon was perfect for a cruise! I took my Dramamine in advance. :) Here we are at Kabatas dock.
 
 
We had just visited Dolmabahçe Palace so it was really cool to see it from the water!
 
 
Below: not sure what this building is, but it's ready for Republic Day on Monday!
 
 
We cruised all the way to the narrowest point in the Bosphorus. Here's Rumelihisari or the Rumeli fortress, built in the 15th century to control Bosphorus sea traffic. Rumeli is on the Europe side but there's a similar structure on the Asia side called Anadoluhisari.
 
 
There are lots of pretty homes and cute little neighborhoods, cafés, and interesting-looking places along the Bosphorus.
 
 
On the Asia side (above) are many older homes (mansions, actually) situated right along the water. These are called yali and most of them are passed down from generation to generation, meaning that you don't typically find these for sale.
 
 
Above is the Bosphorus Bridge, one of two bridges connecting Europe and Asia over the Bosphorus. This shot is looking at Europe. I wanted to walk across the bridge so that I could say I walked to Asia (or Europe) but alas, pedestrians are no longer allowed.
 
 
Coming back toward Kabatas, we were looking into the sun, which is too bad for photos but was really neat to see. If you could zoom into the above photo, you could see Ayasofya and several other mosques in the Golden Horn area, which is in the background here and on the right.
 
The cruise was a relaxing way to spend our penultimate afternoon in Istanbul.
 

Dolmabahçe Palace

 
This morning we went back over to Besiktas to see Dolmabahçe Sarayi or Palace. A blend of Ottoman, Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical styles, it was finished in 1856. Fourteen tons of gold (gold leaf) were used to gild the ceilings. We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but I can tell you that it was amazing!
 
 
The gardens of Dolmabahçe are pretty cool, too -- from the roses near the entrance (above) to the amazing magnolia trees (below) which are the largest I've ever seen.
 
 
Dolmabahçe actually means "filled-in garden" so the nice landscaping suits the name! I especially liked the swan fountain below.
 
 
After our tour of Dolmabahçe, we walked a little ways down the street to Kabatas and bought tickets for a 1.5 hour Bopshorus cruise. Check the next entry!
 

The protectors of Ephesus

 
When we were in Kauai in 2010, we were fascinated with all the chickens roaming "wild" on the island. Here in Turkey, cats are everywhere. Neither scared of nor friendly to humans, they seem to have a live and let live philosophy. These are some of the kitties of Ephesus.
 
 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ayasofya at night

 
Tonight we went to see the whirling dervishes. If you don't know what that is, please look it up because its fascinating! We were not allowed to take photos, so instead I'm sharing one I took of Ayasofya as we walked back to our hotel this evening. It's been an awesome weather day in Istanbul today, and tonight was equally nice. When we got back to the hotel, we went up to the terrace and had apple tea. I have a feeling we're going to need to bring lots of apple tea home because all three of us are hooked on it! :)
 

A walk across the Galeta Bridge

 
This isn't the greatest photo, but it shows the Golden Horn from the other side of the Galeta Bridge, which we crossed on foot today after our Taksim Square adventure. There was lots of activity on both sides of the bridge, but what surprised me most was the number of fishermen. They were lined up almost all the way across!

 
That tall tower you see in the background of the above photo? That's Galeta Tower, which was built by the Genoese in the 14th century and is still standing tall.
 
When we got to the Golden Horn side, I was amazed at the crowd hanging out by the harbor. But it IS a holiday weekend and we WERE warned that it was going to be crowded!
 
 
This is almost - but not quite - as crowded as the Spice Market was a few days ago!
 
 

Taksim Square

 
This morning S & I took the tram up to Kabalas, where we transferred to the funicular and went uphill to Taksim Square. It was a beautiful day, so we decided to walk back down the hill to the Golden Horn and beyond to our hotel.
 
 
We took our time walking back, stopping to take photos and to look at the map occasionally. The backstreets of Istanbul can be rather confusing and the streets don't always have signs! But we made our way back to the Galeta Bridge, and from there it was easy -- we just followed the tram tracks. :)
 

Ephesus

 
Here are just a few of the photos I took at Ephesus yesterday. The first one is what remains of the library. It's the most intact of the old buildings, and one of the most commonly photographed of the sites here. Notice the marble columns. They're in great shape considering that the library was built in the third century!!! At the time it was the third largest library in the world. I shiver to think of the knowledge once held here that has since been lost to history.
 
 
You'll see remnants of all sorts of other buildings at Ephesus: civic or government buildings such as the one above, market places, homes with mosaic flooring that you can still see . . . the cats really like this one!
 
 
There are no words to describe the sheer awesomeness of this place. Our tour guide, Sezgin, told us that there have been several cities on this site: The earliest city was here around 6500BCE, built by the Amazons. This was followed by Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman cities. The current city just a few kilometers away is called Selçuk. And the Turkish name for Ephesus, by the way, is Efes.
 
 
Above: Tablets with Ancient Greek writing.
 
Below: The Greek goddess of victory, Nike.
 
When you consider how old this stuff is, it's amazing it has lasted so long! I mean, seriously, what do we make now that will last thousands of years? (Other than disposable diapers and nuclear waste?)
 
 
 
Over time, of course, the site has been covered up by nature. Earthquakes and erosion buried a lot of it. In fact, so far only about 20% of the site has been excavated. Imagine what else archaeologists might find! A thousand years ago there was a harbor nearby. Now the (Aegean) sea is some seven kilometers away due to silt from erosion.
 
 
Above is the amphitheater, which seated some 25,000 to 30,000 people. It was here that the Apostle Paul of Tarsus (St. Paul) spoke to the people of Ephesus as documented in the New Testament.
 
I wish I could share all of my Ephesus photos with you here because I have several more!