Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Euro Spring 2015 - Part 5 & 6 - Monuments and More With Yoda

Where our Heros
  • Tackle in earnest the Lost Planet Top Ten
  • Learn much more still about the Istanbul mass transit system
  • Go far beyond the city limits in search of the Photo Force
  • Look deep inside and wonder "Did we really say we were doing this trip to slow down?"
  • Find even more subtle ways for the carpet sales people to trap you
  • Learn of the wonders of Sarcophagus World
  • Find out how to negotiate your way to dinner when the city (actually country) is blacked out
  • Share dinner with Mehmet the Conquerer
Today's post will cover two days as we've been going 10 thousand kilometers per hour since we've been here (we're in Europe dudes - we're on the metric system!)  Wife has let it be known that our mission henceforth will be to get as close as we can to seeing all 'Top 10 Things To Do In Istanbul according to the Lonely Planet Guide, the Eldership de-I guide of choice on away missions. 

The first thing we did Monday morning is head to the Blue Mosque.  Mosques are interesting compared to let's say Gothic Cathedrals because they are much simpler in decoration.  This mosque dates from the 16th century so is much, much older than say the one Cordoba that we saw in Spain.  Over that period evidently the preferred designed changed from having many columns to one of great domes opening to the sky.  
(Note on pictures - I've said this before but the internet here is very sketchy and the only time I can usually get pictures uploaded is in the early morning  So I have to do all my editing and have them ready so I do it while I'm showering.  Hence the delay.  Please don't cancel subscriptions to my blog...what you're not paying anything to read this????  Damn :(  )

I was sooo tired and not feeling good (chills and sweats - hi Derf).  That I decided I absolutely needed to rest for a few hours before we met up again for session two with the Photo Yoda.  (In fact I messaged Yoda that he was dealing with old folk and we needed to slow it down a bit).  After a couple of yours of rest and nap, we headed out and took the tram to a train station, Sirkesi,  
We grabbed lunch at a kind of cafeteria where we had a lovely experience.  The manager kind of shepherded us through, helping us with choices and when we kind of screwed up on the procedure but without any 'attitude' just genuine assistance.  We had a nice meal of kebab (Kebab by the way means 'roasted'.  Anything roasted is a 'kebab'.  It does not have to and for the most part is not on a stick!  Only 'shish' kebab is on stick, shish meaning skewered.  We have the terms completely backward.)  We ended up sitting at a large table.  Because it was so crowded, three women, a mother, daughter, and niece/cousin) sat with us.  We proceeded to have a conversation making use of minimal English and Turkish and drawing of pictures.  We have found the Turks to be very friendly and helpful (carpet sales people excepted).
There we met Yoda and his assistant. We now made use of a high speed train and the metro to get to a point far outside the city where Yoda has his domicile and car.  Then we drove up the Bosporus to some fishing villages on the Black Sea for more picture taking.  Wife had felt overwhelmed yesterday so she asked if we could focus on the landscape photography she enjoys rather that so much on impromptu picture taking.  As with the day before, we were going to places and meeting people that we would otherwise never have been in contact with.  From my non-photographic standpoint it was exceedingly cool.  Wife said it was interesting that the first day was very, very stressful and the seonc day was much more fun...but that she had learned much more on the first day!

After the days shoot, Yoda took us to his house where we had coffee (it was already around 8 PM).  Then we took the metro back into town.  By the time we had dinner and got back it was close to midnight.

I had another bad night of chills and sweating so was still not all the way back yet.  Today, Tuesday, we were focusing on the Aya Sofia (also known as Hagia Sophia), one of the great buildings of the Byzantine world and a huge museum complex known as the Istanbul Archeological Museums (thats Museums, plural).  I want to let my pictures do the talking on this because I don't think I have enough of way with words to give you the scope of this building (much as with the Blue Mosque).  Actually pictures don't do it justice either).  We were going to get a museum pass from a vending machine but they all seemed to be down.  A nice person tried to help us and then brought us to a place where we could buy them from a person that we would have never found.  I'm thinking, a person on the Hippodrome that is genuine...but no he also was trying get us to his shop.  At least we got value from the exchange!

Do you remember me telling you that I wasn't feeling good?  Do you remember a ways back saying that Wife and I really needed to slow down and recognize your age on these trips.  Somehow this all got garbled in Wife's mind.  It came out as...we must do everything on the list.  If we pay for it we see EVERYTHING!  Especially since we had paid for a museum pass card which meant we had to get every Turkish Lira of value out of it.
This meant that when we were in the Archeological Museums we kept going and going even though I was clearly flagging.  Wife reminded me that in New Mexico we have this memorial parade every year for the members of the New Mexico National Guard that got trapped in WWII in the Bataan Death March.  She noted that they weren't going to be alive much longer and that they would need a replacement and she thought the Istanbul Museum Death March was certainly a candidate.

One good thing about this was our introduction to Sarcophagus World...a retail place like no other.  I will be showing you more about that when I can do photos.  

Finally we were done.  I needed to get some more cash because the the museum pass would only take cash.  I went to four ATMs but all were down.  It turns out that all the electricity in most of the country was down!  We went to our hotel and chilled.  I wondered if we were going to be able to get dinner.  Wife had packed some flash lights and we set off to the restaurant I'd researched.  We got there and they were indeed serving dinner and said, if they couldn't charge it, we could come back tomorrow and settle the account.  We sat on a patio overlooking the Marmara Sea because there was more light out there and had a pretty nice meal with wine.  Our waiter, Mehmet, was a hoot.  We learned a lot about his family and life.  He was slick and kept calling Wife my daughter.  I joked with him after the meal when I took his picture with Wife that I wasn't sure I could leave here with Mehmet the Conqueror (the Ottoman Sultan who finally captured Byzantium).     

We got back at a reasonable hour and then squandered the whole thing writing this blog entry so it is now 11:20.  Sigh.  Some people are just incorrigible.

Euro Spring 2015 Pictures - Day Two -The Great Good Tour

 Buffalo's milk clotted cream with honey sourced from Eastern Turkey

Three kinds of menem - soft egg dishes, one with cheese, tomato and onion, one with beef sausage, and one with pasturma, a pastrami like cured meet.

 The 'Pudding" store

A street of mehanes - drinking/eating places.  There were many of these streets

 Fish market in Besiktas

 The hundred year old bakery

 Inside the bakery - we've found the bread in Istanbul to very, very good

Inside the baklava/borek place in Besiktas.  These people hail from the Gazniap region of Turkey

 We didn't eat anything here but our guide told us this cart made the best sandwiches

I forget the name of this mosque but it was designed by Sinan one of the great Ottoman architects.

 On the ferry with our group going over to Asia and the Uskudar neighborhood

 The tourist central/old town Sultanamet seen from across the watter

A traditional Muslim cemetary

 Our guide, Benoit, taking us to the Alevite shrine

The meal shared at the shrine, just lamb and bulgar wheat.  The grains (including rice) seem to always be cooked in a broth which gives them great flavor.

On to the markets of Uskudar

 A store specializing in eggs

 One specializing in milk products

 Daughter #3 - A shop that sells only pickles they make themselves!!!

Roasted Sheep's head
There's plenty for everyone!

 Woman in the organ meat store butchering beef hearts.  
I don't think you want to be messing with her.

Our head ready to be disassembled
(I have a video of this that I hope to get up later)

 Dried vegetable shop.  These are mostly used for dolmas (which by the way means 'stuffed' so can be any stuffed vegetable not just the grape leaves we associate with the word)

 Woman/restaurant owner from Northwest Turkey making dolmas of dried, reconstituted peppers.
We were too early to try them :(
 But we did get here fondu like regional specialty which had cheese, butter, and corn which you ate like fondu with bread

A store with nothing but cheeses (feta like) from Northeastern Turkey and olives

 A cheese tasting from the store with cows, sheep and goats milk varieties

 The honey shop - You would have loved this Dr. Debbie

 A honey tasting

In Kuzguncuk trying small fried fish - Yum

 A lot of the architecture of regular streets dates from the 19th century and with the hills is so reminiscent San Francisco and Oakland

 Above and below - Black Sea specialty shop with Bulgar, corn, chickpeas, dolmas of grape leaves and cabbage, bags of dried soup stock, various fruit molasses and preserves

 A Greek Orthodox  church

 The olive oil guy giving us tastings of an oil from green olives using a continuous press method and one of black olives using a traditional mill press method

Catching a shot of a pre-wedding day photo shoot

Artichokes for stuffing

 Inside another bakery

Muhalledi, a pudding of wheat, eggs and milk with preserves over it.

Turkish Coffee - of course

 The remains of the chicken breast pudding

 On old synagogue

 And back across the water