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. :)


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!

A day in Anatolya

We took a day trip from Istanbul yesterday, first flying to Izmir, then traveling by car to Selçuk and Kusadasi. It was a long day as we had to wake up at 4:15AM and didn't get back to our hotel is Istanbul until after midnight, but it was worth it! And we were very happy for the chance to see the Asia side of Turkey -- known as Anatolia or Anatolya.
Our first tour stop was Meryemana or the House of the Virgin Mary. It is believed that she traveled to Ephesus with John (St. John) after the time of Jesus, and that she lived in the house shown in the above photo. As such, this place -- which is up on top of a mountain -- is considered a holy shrine. Some people leave messages for Mary on the wall below. I read some of the messages (I also took some photos but I don't want to post them here because they seemed so personal) but I can tell you that they asked for blessings on other people, for good health, and for good jobs. And they were written in many different languages.
Interestingly, in this same area of Turkey, there have been several examples of strong females throughout history. This is where the Amazon warrior women lived (not a myth according to both Mike and our tour guide) and also the home of Kybele and Artemis. In fact, the Temple of Artemis is just down the mountain from Mary's house. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but now only one column remains.
Although visiting Ephesus was the main purpose for our visit to the region, since it was a holiday Ephesus didn't open until 1:30pm. So after visiting Meryemana, we went back down the mountain and then headed towards Kusadasi where we had lunch at a government cooperative where girls learn to weave carpets in the traditional Turkish way. The carpets are then sold. We learned that the prices are much less here and they include shipping to your home anywhere in the world.
Above is a photo of the cooperative. That's a quince tree. When we expressed our curiosity about the taste of fresh quince (we had previously only had quince jam), our host picked one off the tree and had it prepared for us. It tastes a lot like an apple but the texture is grainy. We found we liked it better with salt on it!
Above: Our hosts demonstrate how silk is extracted from the silkworm cocoons.
Below: traditional Turkish carpets are made with naturally dyed fibers. The colors come from vegetables -- those are dried veggies in the jars.
Below: one of the carpet makers at work. The top part of the rug is the pattern she is following.

After lunch and a carpet viewing (with apple tea, of course!), it was finally time to go to Ephesus. Check the next entry for that story!