Monday, September 29, 2008

Istanbul Wrap Up

So it's been a bit of time and I've shaken off the jet lag and am back at work. Things seem normal but there are those little things that you soak in that change the way you see the world. I went into my favorite little Gyro joint Friday night before the awesome Porchlight Litquake show and finally noticed the posters of Turkey on the walls; the Ataturk bridge, Ephesus... and began thinking that I had been coming here for years and never seen them, never had any reference point.

The guy behind the register had that Turkish B.O. smell that seemed to be the national odor, and I asked him where he was from. "I am Kurdish" he says, "but was born in Turkey" Not sure what that means. Can I say, "I'm English but was born in the U.S."? No, I didn't think so.

Then there was the cobble stone street last night and my mind flashed back to all those amazing little back alleys and those humid afternoons tromping over 1000 year old streets. So much history and culture and conflict. Who hasn't tried to own that place.

I was wondering if two weeks was a good amount of time to visit one city, too much or too little, but it seemed like a good relaxing clip to see not only the big stuff but to enjoy the small sites and hang out with old friends. It was just right. What a great trip. If you are headed that way let me know and I'll give you the low down on where to go and what to see.

(BTW, the photo above was from the amazing Cemberlitas Turkish Bath / Hamam, a must see that I visited on my last day)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Los Cubanos en Istanbul

Look what happens after only a few days outside the US. Here I am kissing the beautiful Cuba flag. Damn you Yanquis!

But seriously, you guys know that I'm staying with my friend Claire and her Cuban husband, Ry. Well on this night he invited some fellow expats over and William (above) cooked up an amazing Cuban style calimari for us. From left to right below, Reinel (Ry's Dad visiting for the month from Havana), William, Denis and yours truly


Friday, September 12, 2008

Istanbul Photo Preview

OK, just a link but here are a few photos from the past amazing week of my time here. More, better, later...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fınally in Istanbul: Rumeli Fortress

What perfect weather. It hit mid 70s today with a nice breeze. It's a nice change from, what I guess most people would call pleasant, the humid 80s of the rest of the week, sweat pouring out of everywhere till it wasn't even a salty thick sweat but a slowly running faucet of clear, tasteless liquid. I can only imagine what it would be like here in the dead of summer.

I'm trying to take it a little slower as the 8 plus hours of walking are killing my feet and there really is no need, I've got the time. I headed out on a short ferry ride to Uskudar this afternoon, lunch in a sea side park and then back and a bus to Rumeli Fortress, at the mouth of Istanbul. The Fortress is by far the best deal here so far, 3 Lira. The history is that in order to conquer Constantinople, after so many tries, the invading army built this place to cut off supplies and finished it in 4 months. Amazing. And it worked.

Today I climbed up and down the handrail-less ramparts exploring all the towers and buttresses. I guess they didn't have so many safety codes back then when they were pouring molten lead on people or chucking fireballs across the moats. I'm scared of heights and the tiny crumbly staircases really did me in. Needless to say, once on top, I took my time to relax and soak it in.

In fact it was at this spot, over looking two of the fortress towers, cargo ship entering the straights, that I snapped a photo. It hit me right at that moment and really sunk in that I'm somewhere completely different and not at all in San Francisco anymore. Welcome to Turkey!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


It seems so surreal really. To think that I get on a plane, watch a movie, take a nap and wake up on the other side of the planet. I think it is just now setting in now, day 3. Dramatically different culture, styles, architecture, food.. Dark complected, dark hair, some dark eyes, surprising, to me at least, light green and yellow eyes. Tiny cobble stone and brick streets smelly little diesels cars and trucks driving too fast, reminds me of Argentina, and more Kebab places than I ever imagined.

So much history. The new mosque from Sunday's Bosphorus boat tour is ONLY 500 years old. The Grand Bazaar, the aqueducts, the city has been built around them, and evolved with them. The mosques are tourist destinations but this month is Ramadan and they are functioning mosques after all, listening to the calls to prayer while on the bridge between the new old old towns. My feet hurt, too much walking.

Monday, September 08, 2008

First Impressions

Not really sure where to start so I'll just post about what I'm doing right now. Here's a short vıdeo of yesterday's wandering around. I was in the old section of the city, a bıt later in the day and decided to take a short break.

Turns out it's Ramazan here in Turkey this month, their version of Ramadan, and I decided to hang out at the Blue Mosque for some of the afternoon to experience the Call to Prayer I was amazed and transfixed by the sounds and intensity. I tried to capture a bıt of this in the video from my camera. Not sure how well it turned out but you get the idea.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Turkey Bound!

OK, this is gonna be nuts! I'm headed to Turkey / Istanbul this Friday for 2 weeks and can barely sleep thinking about how much there is to see and do there. Not looking forward to the 18 hours of seat time but if you have an easier way to get there, let me know.

I'll be staying with a friend of mine that lives there with her family. She is right in central Istanbul. She is part of the British Consulate and usually ends up in amazing places like this so it is great to get invited to see the new digs.

So far the agenda look like this:

1) see some the the hundreds of cool Mosques: the Hagia Sophia, the Sehzade and the Faith Mosques

2) the under ground ruins - cities upon cities!

3) bad ass sultan's palaces - can't see that in the US (except maybe in D.C.)

4) Byzantium walls

5) amazing aqueducts

6) the underground cities of Cappadocia

Got to do:
Turkish coffee
Turkish bath