Monthly Archives: June 2014

Twelfth Turkey Epsitle

The Princes’ IslandsIMG_0466 

These islands ‘guard’ the entrance to the Bosphorous on the Sea of Marmara. In Ottoman times princes were exiled here and in the late 19th and early 20th century wealthy Stamboulis built lavish summer homes.

Ever since arrivIMG_1020ing here we have been urged to visit the islands in order to get away from the hustle and bustle of this enormous city and to enjoy the quiet pine forests and the sea.

Throwing bathing suits and towel into our knapsack we trotted off to the harbour to get the ferry. When you live in a city of 18 million people, many of whom are now on vacation, you forget the niceties of life and just elbow your way onto buses and boats. This day was no exception as we were shoved and jostled by people wanting to get to the best seats. I thought I had found a pretty good one – a little round table with a double bench on each side. An elderly couple were sitting on one bench and I sat down on the other. Suddenly this little lady started yelling at me in Turkish, spread her newspaper over the whole table and moved her husband’s bag to the bench I had just claiIMG_5133med!  I let her have it … I wasn’t going to interfere with that ball of fire.

Finding another seat by a window we settled in to enjoy the 1/12 hour trip to the largest of the islands – Buyuk Ada. About 20 minutes into the trip a fellow appeared carrying 2 plastic bags and proceeded to demonstrate getting the juice out of a lemon using a handy little gadget. I need to tell you it was worth the 5TL (the price of 6 of these little gadgets) to watch his performance.  It was amazing!  Turks have to work so hard to make a living and I marvel at their creativity and sheer perseverance. We did buy a package of these babies and are now trying to figure out how to use them. Continuing the trip we realized just how big this city it – we never got passed it – as our American friend,Bill, said – ‘This is not a city – it is a country’.

Finally, our destination in sight, we began to get ready for our quiet day in the country. Disembarking we were met by a scene of total chaos!!! Masses of people waiting in line to rent horse drawn carriages, shops and stalls selling hundreds and hundreds of things tourists just had to have – and the smell of the horses !!  It was awful.

The islands have a ‘no car rule’ (except for the exceptions), so you either walk, ride a bike or take a horse drawn carriage. The main purpose of the carriage drivers seems to be to get up to the top of the first hill as fast as possible in order to get back down to pick up another fare so these guys drive like maniacs and don’t seem to bother much about pedestrians as I was later to find out. At first renting a bike seemed like a good idea until we found out that the final hill gets very steep and you have to either abandon the bike or push it up the last 300 meters. So we decided to walk.

The walk was just fine and it only took us 35 minutes. Along the way we passed the old mansions and hotels with occasional glimpses of the sea. By and large this was pleasant except when we had to dodge one of the carriages. The pine forest finally appeared and it was lovely and cool. We noted a small private park with the promise of a beach and planned to return after we reached the top of the mountain. Finally, the end of the carriage route – and again, a scene of total chaos with empty carriages, smelly horses and booths of stuff everywhere. As one guy from New York said to us – “This was supposed to be an escape from the chaos of Istanbul!”. We could only nod in agreement.

Our destination was the ancient orthodox Church of St. George and tea house. The sign said ‘300 meters’.  Well, I’m not sure. The sun was blazing down on us and the hill was steeply looming up ahead of us.  Forging onward, with our hats plunked firmly on our heads we began the climb. It was steep but it certainly didn’t feel like 300 meters – it had to be more. After two rest stops we finally reached the top and it was all worthwhile. The view was breathtaking, the church was old, beautiful and serene, and, the tea house was delightful.

Sitting at one of the tables, in the shade, we looked out over the forest, the sea and the islands beyond that – and just remained in the here and now. It was expected that you would linger – and we did. A light lunch, beer and limonata and we were at peace.

BUT …. all good things must come to an end and we were off to find a beach!  Walking down the hill proved to be not quite as easy as we had thought so when a taxi appeared (thank goodness for the exceptions) we thought it was well worth the 5TL. Not feeling the least bit guilty or any sense of failure, we happily endured the bumpy ride and the hairpin turns.

We found the little park, paid our entrance fee and – to our dismay – realized that the beaches were either uninviting or almost impossible to reach – but – in the distance – there was a hotel with a beach. Off we went – found the entrance, paid the vastly inflated entrance fee, changed into our suits, sat down – and – the muzak blared, the sun went down, the winds came up, the thunder started to roll – and I got out my sweater.  Murray went in for a swim but it was just too unpleasant so we changed back into our clothes and got on a little ferry to wait for an hour before it took us to the main ferry terminal where we could get the boat to go back home.

During this hour we had to endure the non-stop yakking of an obnoxious British teen who criticized everything Turkish thinking no one could understand her. Then the sun came out, the wind died down and the day became glorious!!! Finally …. the boat took us over to the main harbour -and – we found out that we had to wait 2 hours for the ferry back home.

Finding a lovely fish restaurant with tables right by the water, we sat down; the waiter brought us water and bread – and then we moved – a young Turkish mother was 2 tables away and was letting her darlings run all over the place. We just could not bear this confusion after having had to listen to that crazy girl on the boat. As we moved, the waiter said, “Turkish children – bad! “ Well, it really was because we were so weary by this time.

A lovely view, a lovely dinner and, now time to get our ferry.  Arriving at the terminal we discovered that we had got the 24 hour clock all mixed up and had missed the ferry!!    Another 11/2 hour wait..  

Ice cream – that was going to make up for yet another delay. The usual antics, ice cream cones in our hands – and the guy rips us off by charging two times more than anyone else.

Sitting on a bench in the nearby park we reflected on our day. We decided that we could either think about all the negative things or simply choose to think on the good – including this lovely scene in front of us. 

And so – we had had a peaceful boat ride, had seen glorious old houses with rich stories lurking behind shutters and curtains, crazy Turkish carriage drivers, a successful climb up a challenging hill, a church rich in a long Christian tradition of serving God, a tea house with a view, a taxi when we needed it, beautiful waterscapes, the sun, delicious food in a perfect setting, yummy ice cream, and an astounding harbour front row seat.

Life is very good:)

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Eleventh Turkey Epsitle

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Today we went, once again, across the Bosphorous to get to Karikoy and both the Crimea Memorial Christ Church and the Church of the Resurrection.

Arriving an hour early for the first church service, we went to our crazy coffee shop which is part of that funky chic hotel in Galata.  This time we sat outside at one of the 2 tiny tables perched on the narrow ledge outside the front windows. It was fun to watch this little neighbourhood wake up. Shop owners raised the protective metal blinds in front of their shops, set out boards of souvenirs, and hung bags and coverlets in bright Turkish fabrics.

The Crimean Memorial Christ Church

Today, instead of an organist there was a violinist with 3 singers as well as the conductor. One of the fellows was a tenor soloist.

It was Trinity Sunday and Father Ian preached an excellent sermon on the true Catholic f

Faith that points us to Jesus Christ. He went on to say:

“In sacred communion and fellowship through the church’s sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ we live in a relationship with Jesus Christ. The pulpit in which the preacher stands in Christ Church Istanbul is made from marbles taken from the sites of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse which are a symbol in St. John the Divine of the whole church.  On the pulpit 3 mottos are inscribed. One the Pauline phrase used in the Reformation “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23); another from Constantine who founded this city and established the Faith in the civilized world “In this sign conquer”; and another motto from the great 4th century Gallican theologian St. Vincent of Lerins,  “What (has been held) always, everywhere, by everybody – is the Catholic Faith”.

After the service, I asked him if I could have a copy of his sermon and he said to take the one in the pulpit.  He said “ We are green here and I usually just throw it out”.  It is special to have it – complete with corrections in the margin in his own handwriting – just like Murray’s sermons.

Outside I met a lovely couple from San Francisco visiting their son who is the newly appointed U.S. Councillor General in Istanbul. He sings in Barbershop quartets and is a member of the choir here.

Next I started talking to a woman, also from San Francisco, who had lived here for 10 years.  She is an artist and showed me a book of her work. She sketches disappearing historic sites in Istanbul before they are forgotten forever. I asked her how I could get a copy of her book and guess what? I could buy that very one.  She dramatically signed it for us – and the beauty of it all is that the book is as light as a feather. She does this deliberately because she knows tourists don’t want to buy heavy tomes.

Meanwhile, Murray was speaking to Father Ian and was asked to preach on June 29th!!!  So, life is getting busy in deed.

Church of the Resurrection

It was now time to wend our way up Istiklal Caddesi (Street) to the turn off to The Church of the Resurrection where Murray was set to preach on The Trinity. One of the wardens was the translator. He is a mathematics professor and his wife is doing a Phd in Ethno Music.  One funny moment happened when Murray used 3 distinct words to describe the relationship of the Trinity. Everyone started to laugh and the fellow in front of me explained that there is only one word in Turkish for all 3 of the words that Murray used.

A funny thing always happens at about 10 minutes after the start of the service – just as we are beginning to worship – the local mosque broadcasts the muslim call to prayer. I like to think that we are united in our desire to pray.

For the last 2 Sundays, an American scientist has been attending the church. He is here for 2 weeks working in collaboration with a professor at the university.  We were planning to go to the art gallery nearby to see an Andy Warhol exhibition that Ros had recommended. In the end Ros, Bill, the American scientist, and Murray and I went together.

The art gallery is a little treasure and we are going to go back to see their Ottoman collection.

Istanbul Design Center

It was now time to go back to the Istanbul Design Center to pick up my necklace.  With great relief we found our way there with ease. Walking across the courtyard between the Blue Mosque and Haiga Sofia, I mentioned to Murray that it is nice to be so at home here that we now see these great sites as comfortably familiar.

Walking into the Design Center we were greeted by the student who had been our guide the first time. She led us up to the gallery on the second floor and Fatma ran out of her office to meet us with warm hugs. The artist who designed my necklace wasn’t there but Fatma called her and we had a lovely chat. Ayse is going to translate the poem that accompanied her piece and send it to me. She also let me have her story board with her original sketches.  The whole experience has been such a gift.

We were urged to sit at a little table, brought tea and Turkish coffee, and invited to have delicious pastries that had been served to celebrate the finale of the exhibition.

Tired, we took the tramway back to the harbour, boarded the ferry and eventually got back to the Kadikoy harbour.

A wonderfully full day!!

Question of the Day:

How do you move a book store?

Answer:  

Pack the books in smallish boxes

Enlist the help of about 100 willing friends

Form a long line between the old store and the new store ignoring the fact that this is a busy road

Pass the boxes from one person to another until all the books have been transferred

Simple – if you know how!!!

Tenth Turkish Epistle

The Tenth Turkey Epistle

A Recipe

I discovered a recipe that might interest some of you.

Start with any interesting leafy green base

Add

Sliced broad green beans

Shredded carrot

A little thinly sliced onion

Optional: a little thinly sliced red pepper

Orange or grapefruit sections

Toss with a dressing made from olive oil and either freshly squeezed orange juice or grapefruit juice

Top with a white cheese like feta and some dried cranberries

I saw this on one of the cooking programs and now make it all the time.

Visit to a Hamam

IMG_7411 IMG_6091 IMG_2255Earlier I had mentioned that there was a Hamam – or turkish bath at the end of street. Yesterday I plucked up the courage to peek inside and was greeted by 3 or 4 enthusiastic ladies who welcomed me to try. They even had a sheet of paper in English to explain the services rendered for only 40TL. I hurried home to leave my groceries and to tell Murray that I was going to try it.

Entering again, I was given a Turkish towel – a woven cotton piece of fabric with tassels on the ends and shown into a cubicle. The cubicle had a bench, a small stool and hooks on the wall. Wrapped in my Turkish sarong I was led up 4 steps into the steam room.

Before I continue, let me describe the layout.  The reception room had all marble floors with dark wood forming the cubicles. Beautiful Iznik tiles were on all the walls. The steam room also had marble floors, marble halfway up the walls, a marble bench that ran around the circumference of the room with marble sinks attached to the walls every 4 feet. A large flat marble platform about 15 inches off the floor was in the centre underneath a large dome with windows to let in the light. Above the marble on the walls were the most incredibly beautiful Iznik tiles I have yet to see. They certainly rivalled if not exceeded the beauty of the tiles in the many mosques, etc. we have seen so far – all in a dumpy little place at the end of our rather ordinary street.

Stage 1: An attendant gave me a bowl and indicated that I was to sit beside one of the sinks and pour water over myself.  I watched the other ladies and followed their examples.  There were 4 other clients in the room at various stages in the process so I could see what to expect.  

Stage 2: At the end of ten minutes my attendant motioned for me to go over to the marble platform. She doused the surface with water and I laid down on my front. She then proceeded to scrub my entire body with a very scratchy mitt. With a sharp tap on my bottom she indicated that I was to turn over. Once on my back, the same process happened all on my front. I kept reminding myself that when this was finished I would be a glowing beauty!!  Another sharp tap and I was taken back to the sink and rinsed off.

Stage 3: Back on the marble slab on my front, my backside was lathered in soap with a little massage on my toes – that felt good. Another tap and I was supposed to turn over  – but I was slathered in soap and nearly fell off trying to roll – she was used to this happening and guided me to the right position. With my arms flung over my head my whole front was vigorously lathered. She massaged my shoulders and nearly killed me with her strong bony fingers. Another tap and I was told to sit up while she washed my neck, ears and scalp. Gingerly getting up and putting on my special rubber bath slippers I once more went over to the sink to be rinsed off – but this time with COLD water – what a  shock!!  

Stage 4: Sitting down again next to the sink, she washed and rinsed my hair and all was over.

Once home I realized I was totally exhausted and had to go to bed for an hour!! Would I do it again? Hmmm – The Beautyland Spor Club has a Turkish Beauty treatment with essential oils, soft music, etc., —-maybe.

Weight

One of our friends wondered if I had noticed that my clothes were getting tight.  Sacrificing some of our precious baggage allowance, i have brought our bathroom scale!  I haven’t gained any weight and Murray has lost 6 pounds.  We walk a lot and really don’t eat much bread because the Turkish bread is usually pretty tasteless and a little dry.  We don’t usually eat dessert – when I go to our little grocery store I pick up 2 chocolate bars – one dark and one milk.We usually limit ourselves to 3 squares a day and I don’t buy more until both are gone.

Ferries

One of the fun things about being on the Asian side is that we have to take the ferries to see just about everything because the old part of the city and the church are on the European side.

On one of our journeys we suddenly noticed that the engines had been thrown into reverse. Looking up we could see that we were heading towards the breakwater. In the end, the driver managed to pull the boat around and we were just fine. No one else seemed to notice or be concerned. We considered that there might be one of three possible reasons why this might have happened: 

It was the driver’s first day

He was on his cell

He had had to go to the bathroom and left one of the tea guys in charge

Another day we were returning at rush hour. We have told you how crazy the road traffic is well … imagine the same scenario on the water. Ferries everywhere – honking at each other, racing across 2 lanes of traffic and nearly running into one another.  It is a crazy city because there are just so many people to move from point to point. fifty years ago there were 2 million people here – now there are 18 million!!

People

You just cannot begin to imagine the sheer magnitude of the people in this city!  When we first arrived it was relatively calm because the tourist season had not yet started.  About a week or so after we arrived the first cruise ships arrived in the port and then the long lines of tour busses started to appear on the streets. Now the schools are closed for the summer and the children are home, and parents are taking their holidays – it is simply chaos. A walk anywhere means avoiding elbows, feet, strollers, and bodies in general. Hurrying to catch the ferry, for example, is a waste of effort – it cannot happen. 

Books

Today Murray found a bit of heaven – an alley way dedicated to book shops.  Shop after shop with books from floor to ceiling and every possible bit of wall covered. They were in all languages so it was fun to go through English titles. One shop specialized in old ‘vinyls’ and another in cds.  

Orange Juice

Everywhere you go here you can buy freshly squeezed orange juice. The oranges here are especially delicious and juicy. Vendors conduct their business in a variety of ways. Open counters at the front of stores have colourful displays of oranges, grapefruits and pomegranates. Other vendors operate solo wherever there is a bare piece of pavement. Ferries have small ‘cafes’ where the oranges are ‘juiced’ and then the tea salesmen walk amongst the passengers selling cay (tea), orange juice and tost cheese. The most endearing experience we had was in our beloved Galata in a tiny side street. A fellow had his juicer set up with a tiny display of fruit. We asked him for 2 cups of juice and he graciously led us 10 steps across the street to a tiny table with 2 stools. As we sat there he squeezed oranges for us and then delivered the juice to our table. So lovely.

Funniest juice moment:  This morning, on the ferry, the tea guy came by and insisted on giving us orange juice -as if it were a gift – he also tried to press a tost cheese on us as well but I very strongly drew my fingers across my throat to indicate I was stuffed and couldn’t. Drinking the juice thus forced upon us we were only too fully aware that this was not a gift and if we were to walk off the ferry without paying we would be barraged with an invective tirade of abuse. The next time the salesman passed by Murray gave him 5 TL which was more than than the cost.

At the end of our trip, as we were leaving the ferry, the guy had the nerve to laugh at us and make a gesture that said ‘I really pulled a fast one on you’. This is all part of the culture here.

Ninth Turkey Epistle

 

The Ninth Turkey Epistle

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Today we went over to Osmanbey where Ros and Yuce live. Murray was meeting with Yuce to talk about things relating to Yuce’s journey towards ordination. It is one of the ways that Murray is trying to be of use here at the Church of the Resurrection. 

Ros lives quite near to Yuce’s flat so it was arranged that I would have tea with her at her place. It was so lovely to sit with her and just visit. She is an amazing person. She became a Christian in her Confirmation class at age 13 and has faithfully served God all the rest of her life. For many years she taught Math at the International School in Istanbul and now many of those girls are leaders in their communities – quite a ministry I think.  Back in England she was a lay reader and played an active leadership role in the church there. Now, in retirement, she is back in Turkey to help Engin. She has been a tremendous support to us. One of her important roles is preparing readings for the services each Sunday.  

The entire Anglican liturgy is not translated into Turkish yet!  Ros is working on this with others in the congregation and then will send it off to the new Bishop of Europe for his approval. We found out on Sunday, for example, that there is no word in Turkish for ‘Ascension”.  I only discovered this when I asked Yuce what it was like to translate for Murray. That is when he told me that it was generally fine until there was a word  like Ascension for which there was no Turkish word. I don’t know how this hits you but it stopped me in my tracks – it again underlined how provincial I am in my experience.  Yuce said he had to translate the word by using a sentence.

For supper, Ros took us to meet two of her friends, teachers at the International School. One lady has been in Turkey for 37 years and is just about to retire back to California. The other woman – an American but with family in the Kingston/Peterborough/Ottawa triangle has been here 3 years.  They were all such fun and full of life – and I sat amazed at their courage and strength.  

We went to The House Cafe!  OK, OK – true confession time – again – I LOVED it – it was sOOOOO North American. I had Herb Crusted Grilled Salmon with Spinach, Baked Potatoes and Roquefort!  My slightly tender tummy was in heaven. Their signature tea is a medley of wonderful floral flavours served in a real teapot, a footed cut glass cup and a garnish of fruit – thin slices of apples in a fan shape balanced by tiny wedges of lemon and orange!  Aren’t you just a little envious?

Then!! We went to a Taize Service in an ancient French Roman Catholic Church. There were 4 instruments – guitar, viola, clarinet and flute.  The priest and 2 sisters were lovely and warm and welcoming.  We were welcomed and asked to participate in the service – even me! I was very moved by their generosity.  The service is conducted in Turkish, French, German and English – songs and prayers alternating in these languages. Some parts were read in 3 languages consecutively.  They meet on the 2nd Tuesday of the month from September until June so this was the last one for the summer.  Just for the interest of those of us who plan our own Taize Service I counted a minimum of 150 candles!!!  One woman from Australia summed up the experience by sharing that it was very meaningful to be part of a worldwide community – and it was.

The Funniest TV Show

I just have to tell you about a crazy cooking show I saw on TV. It was a one hour show on cooking eggs. The host was a very expressive woman with a larger than life personality. The guest was a cute Home Economist ( I am partial to cute HEc grads). The first recipe was an egg mixture that was cooked in muffin tins. While waiting for this to cook, the host went over to the most impressive chicken coop I have ever seen – it would have been fit for the Topkapi Palace.  She opened the door and coaxed one of the chickens out – with some difficulty this did happen and the little chicken started to wander all around the studio. Then the host tried to lock the door of the coop and couldn’t – try as she might – while she headed back to the top of the set one of the sound guys ran over to lock the door or there would have been a whole flock of chickens wandering all over. By this time the eggie muffins were ready for tasting.  The host took one, bit into it, and then turning to the audience with her back to the Home Economist gave a look that said “This is the worst thing I’ve ever tasted”.

Meanwhile, the chicken is still walking around the studio!  The HEC then asked the host to help her with the next dish by mixing it – with her back to the HEc the host started adding salt – and I mean really adding salt all the time looking at the audience with a wicked gleam in her eye.  For the grand finale, they tried to poke a hole in an egg – why I couldn’t tell – but no one could do it  – not the expert, nor the assistant. Finally, the assistant took it to the back of the set and still couldn’t do it.

Dyeing Hair

Today I decided to try dyeing my roots. After Murray’s experience at the barber’s I was a little afraid to try my chances at the salon.

Now you need to realize what a challenge this is because I had to do it all in Turkish and this is by someone who:

bought tomato pate thinking it was sausages

asked for a light onion when she thought she was asking for a light bulb

and bought fabric softener instead of laundry soap

First of all I bought just about the lightest colour I could figure out thinking I would rather err on being too light rather than too dark.

At home, using our dictionary, I figured out that I had bought permanent dye and more or less figured out how many minutes, etc.

With great gratitude to my friend Anne who gave me an emergency trip pack ( all of which I have used, Anne – my gratitude) I managed to mix the first two chemicals in  the metal ashtray in our room and apply the dye to my roots. After the appropriate amount of time I used the comb that Anne gave me to comb the mixture through my hair. Murray turned on the hot water from the central tank in our kitchen and I was away to the races – washing everything thoroughly, applying the conditioner, etc.,  – and with great relief saw that my hair was neither black, pink or red but juuuuust right.

Shoes

O, you know I love shoes and sooner or later – it was inevitable – I was going to succumb. 

My place of utter temptation – the narrow streets of Galata and my favourite shops – a purple pair of soft leather Turkish slippers complete with upturned toes – handmade and only 80TL. How could I resist? For your sakes I couldn’t leave them here – you would have been asking why hadn’t I bought them?  – so – fellow conspirators – they are mine! they fit, they are comfortable, they are so much fun!  But ——- and ——- another shop – a new favourite – right next to the first – more handmade shoes – only 80TL and so cute. This time flats – black suede with embroidery – a large red flower on each toe with tendrils of silver along one side – pale green on the other. At the back, on each side a splash of pink and then on the heel, a splash of gold, green and hot pink! I wish I could bring you all back a pair!

Animals

I have avoided talking about all the stray cats and dogs in Istanbul but it is such a part of life here that I feel I must.

There are huge numbers of feral cats and dogs. The cats  are everywhere you look – quite lean but basically clean and healthy looking. Some of them seem to have an ‘arrangement’ with the small business owners who at best leave out a bit of food and water and at worst tolerate them. In the evenings we are often ‘entertained’ by a concert of sounds – one can only imagine what’s going on.  The dogs appear to be from the same general lineage. In the 1800’s one of the sultans tried to rid of them but failed. Now, the city rounds many of them up, spays them, gives them shots, and tags them. It is sad to see them sleeping on sidewalks from time to time and when we first arrived I thought some of them were dead! But, as with the cats, there seems to be a happy compatibility between them and the human population.  What does surprise me is that for all their numbers, the city and the parks are very clean.

A Funny Thing Happened ……

Tonight Murray and I went for a walk along the seawall and decided to sit to enjoy the sun setting over the Blue Mosque. To our surprise a young girl came up and asked if she could take our picture!  She said we looked so nice that she wanted a picture. After she took several pictures she said “God bless you” and left. It was strange to be the object of curiosity.

Turkish Women

In a word – they are gorgeous!  They have such exotic faces with the dark hair, dramatic eyes and distinctive eyebrows that are carefully groomed. And, they are very artistic. When they are having their pictures taken they pull their hair around and over one shoulder, turn to the side and give a sideways look into the camera – and it starts early.  This afternoon a little girl about 8 was with her mother and aunts and they were all taking each others’ pictures. When it came to her turn she pulled her hair back and gave a cute coy little look! Very sweet.

 

Eighth Turkey Epistle

The Eighth Turkey Epistle

I want to thank you who are following our blog (sounds so high tech and as if I know what I’m doing – it is all thanks to our son Matt). You have been asking for pictures and I would love to include them but don’t know how. I have transferred to pictures from our camera to this computer but when I attach them to a file I can’t send them.

A Memorable Dinner:

Imagine a very large outdoor patio. In the centre, place a square of fish counters with the salespeople inside the square and the fish in counters in front of them. Now place chairs and tables all round the fish counters – various restaurants operating their businesses from here. On the outermost edges of the square are permanent buildings where the restaurants have their kitchens and counters for meat and salads, etc. But, basically this is an open air fish market and restaurant complex. The idea is that you choose your restaurant and then choose your fish and or meat. It was an interesting concept. Without a menu we asked for king prawns and lamb. The waitress went to the fishmonger and chose the prawns and then brought me some lamb steaks for my approval, discussed how we might like them cooked and then went off to the kitchen,

In the meantime, one of the waiters appeared at the next table with a platter with a mound of something in total flames. It was a fish called a skin fish that had been encased in salt. The salt was set on fire and the heat cooked the fish. When the fish was cooked, the waiter with some difficulty put out the flames, broke open the salt casing and there was this perfectly cooked fish. Apparently it is a specialty of this restaurant.

Then it was time for our meal – hot pita rolls, garlic butter, perfectly grilled prawns and lamb with onions and tomatoes – and their house salad. A meal to remember.

Hagia Eirene:

I forgot to tell you about a little jewel here – the old church of Hagia Eirene. Although smaller, it rivalled Hagia Sofia in its day. In fact, when Hagia Sofia was in need of repairs this church was the preeminent one and was the scene of a major early church council. It is totally stripped of all ornamentation now but its proportions and acoustics are superb. We even found the remnants of frescoes dating back to Justinian’s time. It is not on the usual tourist trail so you have an opportunity to enjoy its peace almost on your own. Because of the incredible acoustics they hold concerts here – that would be a treat.

Sabine and Louise:

On Saturday evening we travelled to a suburb – off the tourist circuit to have dinner with Sabine and her beautiful daughter Louise. Sabine is one of the chief prayer warriors at the Church of the Resurrection and has been very kind to us. It was lovely to be in a home and to experience an ordinary neighbourhood. Sabine is originally from Strasbourg and speaks French, German, English and Turkish. Her daughter is studying at a French school, of course speaks Turkish and also English. I am envious at their ability to speak in so many languages. Sabine and Louise prepared a French dish for us and we brought a chocolate and pistachio cake! So good!!!

This neighbourhood prior to the 1970’s was basically open land with some estates for the wealthy. Then a couple of sociological changes happened: 1. the wealthy were no longer able to keep up with the expense of maintaining their homes and property so began subdividing the houses and selling the land. and, 2. people from the east began migrating to Istanbul and settled here. Some even built their own places in a haphazard fashion and there are still a few of these places left. Then developers built low rise apartments. Now developers are building condos and elegant skyscrapers. It is a very different skyline from the usual picture one has of Istanbul.

Pentecost Sunday:

We celebrated Pentecost by going to 2 church services. the first was at The Crimean Memorial Church Christ Church.

This church was built in the mid 1800’s and served the expats who worked for the embassies which were all located in this area. It is a typical English stone church with amazing acoustics. There were only 2 people in the choir and they sounded like 20 or 30.

When we arrived a very kind man welcomed us and spent some time chatting. I asked him if there was a washroom and he said certainly showing me the way. Once inside the building I realized it was a private residence. This kind man was the rector and this was the rectory. The church is high Anglican and we enjoyed being in an English service that was so familiar. The sermon was very good – the rector is Irish and he had a delightful singsong kind of voice.

Then, after lunch, we went to The Church of the Resurrection. Engin was presiding and preaching. The church seemed ablaze in red. We couldn’t understand Engin’s sermon but his passion spoke volumes. I kept thinking it would be a good time for the Holy Spirit to give me the interpretation of strange tongues!

A Fond Farewell:

We hurried back to Kadikoy because we had agreed to meet with Marc to say goodbye. He made his last presentation to his thesis committee the previous Wednesday and is now going back to join his mother in Jordan. Marc had earlier reserved a table at our favourite restaurant and it was so sweet because when we arrived Mojo was waiting for us with the best table in the house. Marc has been such a gift to us and he was kind enough to say how important we had become to him. Hopefully our paths will cross again when he returns to Canada next year.

Monday, June 8, 2014

Today we resumed our exploration of the old city. Starting in the area around the Blue Mosque we walked along the Hippodrome and entered an old neighbourhood looking for the Mosque of Sokollu Mehmet Pasa. The streets were very narrow and steep but we did find the outer walls of the mosque. Following the street around them we came to the entrance that led us into the courtyard. It is one of the most beautiful of the small mosques built by the great architect Sinan.

It was too early to enter the mosque so we walked through the courtyard out to the next street and discovered the Istanbul Design Center. It is housed in an ancient building that served as the starting point for pilgrimages to Mecca. Now it is a school that teaches a variety of design techniques including jewellery making. What was exciting was that there was an exhibition of works of the students. It was all jewellery and the theme was “Istanbul and Flowers”. The students had to produce a storyboard showing a photograph or two of Istanbul plus anything else that provided the inspiration for their design. Then there were the preliminary sketches showing the genesis and final stages of the design. The end result, the completed piece of work, was mounted beside the board.

We had one of the students – and artists – as our guide and she showed us the 5 pieces she had designed. Motifs used were the tulip, the Bosphorous, the Galata Tower, seagulls and jacaranda trees to name just a few. After touring the mosque (which I will get to) we went back to the Center and asked if anyone spoke English. We were introduced to the head of the school – Fatma Nur Bayraktar. She described the curriculum to us and told us that they will be giving 2- 1 day workshops on designing enamel jewellery. I had read about this Center on the internet and this course was one that I thought I might be interested in – so I signed up! I also bought one of the pieces – we have to go back on Sunday after the exhibition ends to pick it up. Then Fatma asked if we would like tea or coffee.

We sat in the Atrium with her and the student -Zetrup Undar. A lady brought a tray with tea, Turkish coffee, biscuits, and cookies. Turkish hospitality is amazing. Then Fatma went out and brought back a box. She explained that she was writing a book. Opening the box, she showed us examples of her work that she will include in the book. She has also demonstrated her work on television and showed us a piece that she had done for that show. Then she handed me half a dozen bracelets and said to choose one. How kind. We felt really badly that we didn’t buy a piece of jewellery that Zetrup had designed but the piece that we liked had already been sold – to her aunt!

If you are interested you can go to their website: Istanbul Design Center.

The Piece!!!

Some of you may be wondering what my new piece of jewellery looks like. First of all, the artist took as her inspiration the Bosphorous and the jacaranda trees. The necklace part is made of a couple of strands of very tiny purplish blue crystal-like beads. The pendant is silver coloured and obelisk shaped. At the bottom ( in metal tooling), on the diagonal, are the waves of the Bosporous, above that are the blossoms of the jacaranda and just above that is a piece of amethyst representing the colour of the blossoms. It is very different, very much part of this city and certainly part of our experience here in the Spring.

Back at the Mosque

Going back to the mosque, Murray bought a pastry from a fellow carrying an enormous tray loaded with about 5 or 6 kinds of pastry. (always food).

Finally, the mosque was available for a tour and we walked in. It was simply exquisite. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures so words will have to do. The tile decoration is outstanding. Not all the walls are tiled but specific areas – the dome, mihrab and a frieze of floral designs under the dome. The moderation of the use of the tiles I think only adds to the charm and beauty.

We left the mosque and came upon a film crew with all the trucks, equipment and staff needed. The streets were so narrow that a cube van filled the entire width leaving a narrow gap for one person to squeeze through. We wandered through this neighbourhood passing parks with moms and children, a high school and the usual small shops needed to supply the needs of a community.

We were looking for SS. Sergius and Bacchus, one of the most beautiful and important of the surviving Byzantine churches in the city. It is also known as the Little Haigia Sofia because it anticipated the design of Haigia Sofia. It was built by Justinian and Theodora in 527.

As usual maps and streets don’t often coincide and we asked a young fellow if he knew where the church was and he pointed down a street and said ‘good luck’. That sounded a little strange and I wondered if he had sent us on a wild goose chase. As we were going down the street we met a couple coming up the street. They were looking for the same church and after checking out both our maps determined that our young guy had indeed deliberately sent us the wrong way. We had such a nice time with this couple. They were musicians from Finland. He was a pianist and she was a violinist.

The church was indeed beautiful – it was now a mosque and all the original marble and mosaics were long gone but the marble pillars and the exquisite dome retained the hint of the original magnificence. All the pillars were unique to this building instead of being taken from former buildings which is something the Byzantines did. As a result the pillars complement the whole with alternating colours of red and green marbles.

We love going to the places that are not part of the usual tourist route because we get to enjoy the quiet and serenity of these spaces.

Leaving the church we walked under the railway tracks and came out to the walk next to the old Constantinian walls. What an amazing walk – ancient stones with fragments of old doors, gates, windows – and opposite – the Bosphorous with the glorious breeze and view. We ambled along finally stopping at a fish restaurant for lunch before heading back through the old streets leading to the Blue Mosque.

Enroute we passed through a very unusual and unique neighbourhood. The shops sold hand made goods from the villages. One shop had two antique dresses with outstanding beadwork. I only took pictures because they were so heavy they would have taken up most of our baggage allowance!
One of the hotels was called The Aslan Hotel – complete with the picture of Aslan. We wondered about the history of that. Because this area is so close to the Blue Mosque we have promised ourselves a return visit to one of the cafes. It is a refreshing change from the busy tourist area just 5 – 10 minutes away.

One Final Food Experience

Murray and I took a ride on a gulet – a small wooden boat typical here. When we were at anchor, a smaller motorboat with a little canopy pulled up alongside. A woman was cooking Turkish pancakes on a hot, slightly rounded griddle. (Turkish pancakes are not made from batter like ours but dough that is rolled out very thinly using a long, narrow rolling pin.0 Her husband took our orders – and money. We had two choices – nutella and banana or lemon sugar. We shared the nutella and banana variety. It was sooooooooooo good.

Seventh Turkey Epistle

Seventh Turkey Epistle

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Today we decided to play ‘tourist’. For 85 TL you can buy a Museum Pass that allows you into a number of top sites in 72 hours. The very biggest advantage is that once you have the pass you don’t have to wait it line.

We arrived at Haigia Sofia to see a line up of over 300 people. We first stood in the line to buy the pass, but Murray said he was going to look around. He came back shortly and he had found a van selling the Museum Pass – there was only one person ahead of us! With the passes firmly in our hands we sailed past all those in the line up and entered the grounds.

I had been looking forward to that first glimpse of the famous sanctuary.

We walked through the main doors, and there it was – in all its breathtaking beauty. I could never have imagined that we would have such an unimpeded view.

BUT- like children having to wait for dessert we made ourselves do some important preparation. We watched an excellent video and then read all the posters explaining the history of both the genesis of this treasure and its restoration. It was worth all the effort. We then methodically went through the entire building using our excellent guidebook.

We were awed by:

– the aged Constantian doors,
– the magnificent brass doors that are probably the oldest in the world
the marble that was brought in from all over the then known world.

The brass doors and some of the marble came from ancient sites such as Ephesus, Egypt, etc. The original designers placed these marble panels within marble frames creating a picture of harmony throughout. There are so many brilliant architectural details – the dome being one of the 7 wonders of the world. The windows allow so much natural light that artificial light is not necessary during the day. In fact, two walls in a patchwork of pastel green and pink marble rectangular panels were simply bathed in the softest sunlight showing their colours to perfection.

We were able to take the time to fully appreciate the magnificent mosaics and to let the layout of the place really register – to appreciate the places where the thrones of the emperors and empress would have been situated, to marvel at the balance in the design and to imagine it as a place of worship. It is marvellous to think – and to be grateful, that it remained a place of worship for 15 centuries until becoming a museum. It wasn’t destroyed, wasn’t turned into an bazaar or a night club, etc., etc.

I was pleased to see that restoration work was going on – inside and outside. I had read an article where there was concern that their wasn’t enough money to do this work and the old grand dame was deteriorating.

A delightful treat was to come across some graffiti dating back to the ancient Vikings. Obviously a Viking foot soldier was bored while waiting for his boss so he carved something like “Thor was here” in the stone balustrade. Seeing this I became sensitive to other signs of graffiti – both ancient and modern ( 1977). It seems that regardless of the century, have blade will scratch.

Then lunch – outside, on the grounds just beyond the Haigis Sofia is a dream – a vision of cloud- like canopies over groupings of white wrought iron tables and chairs. It was the perfect place for lunch – in spite of all the people mingling around just outside, we were in this oases of delight. Mmmmm ….. . to complete the picture, there was an extraordinarily beautiful young woman playing the harp. I thought of our Sara as the she played “Pachobel’s Canon”.

However, the first thing the waiter did was walk us throughout the menu pointing out all the things that were sold out. Thump! Back down to the earth – but we managed to find some lovely things to eat although, in Murray’s case a little disappointing to take second choices.

Outside Hagia Sofia are 3 mausoleums all decorated in Iznik tiles. They contained the coffins of various sultans and various family members. The most disturbing one contained about 25 small coffins – children of the sultans. Some died of natural causes but until the 1600’s the little boys were killed if they threatened the succession rights of the favoured heir. Awful to think about. After the 1600’s they simply kept the unfavoured sons in splendid imprisonment in the Topkapi Palace and some simply went mad!

An Ironic Moment:

Outside the entrance to one of the mausoleums are two panels of tired, faded Iznik tiles. There is a plaque explaining that at some point in the distant past, French archaeologists took the original panels back to Paris for restoration promising to return them. What they did was to produce these fakes and put the originals in the Louvre where, with no embarrassment they are proudly displayed with the note that they are from this mausoleum in Istanbul. Beside me was a vey upright British fellow who sniffed haughtily and said. “Well, that’s the French for you”. I thought, “What about the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum?”.

The Turks justify the inclusion of treasures from other lands in their museums by saying they came from parts of the Ottoman Empire – all part of the same empire. We all have our blind sides.

Blue Mosque

Our next visit was to the Blue Mosque – a must see in all the travel books but frankly I preferred the New Mosque. The Blue Mosque is looking very tired and they are replacing the magnificent
stained glass windows with mediocre new one.

Wednesday and Thursday – May 28 and 29

We continued working our way through the sites on our Museum Pass. On Wednesday we explored the Topkapi Palace and Haigia Iryna.

Topkapi Palace was once beautiful but repeated alterations have spoiled the original plan and now it is filled with small spaces which lead to a very choppy layout. The delight was lunch right on the terrace overlooking the Bosphorous. Oh my this was amazing and the day could not have been more perfect to enjoy the view. I had Turkish goulash and it came under a huge brass dome shaped cover. Absolutely delicious. We sat looking out over the water as we finished off our meal with coffee and baklava.

The rest of our museum visiting included the delightful Mosaic Museum on Wednesday and then, the following day the impressive Archaeological Museum and the Tile Museum. The Archaeological Museum is massive. Really you would need a week to do it justice so we concentrated on Kadikoy and a bit of Istanbul. The museum’s first curator in the 1850’s was very farsighted and pushed for legislation that protected all artifacts discovered in Turkey from being taken out of the country. How wise. But what a place to be an archaeologist. For example, in 1989 the city was installing new water pipes and unearthed Bronze Age artifacts!

Seeing all these wonderful sights is a treat BUT, in retrospect, too much in such a short space of time. From now on we plan to be much more leisurely in order to savour both the sights and the process – the whole point of a sabbatical.

A Turkish Haircut Experience:

(this from the fingers of Murray) – My hair was getting very shaggy. We passed a barber shop and the barber called me in for a haircut. I returned later. The first thing you do is negotiate the price: “Ne kader?” (how much?). Twenty lira. About $10 CD. Ok sit down. He had 20 words of English, i had 100 words in Turkish, so conversation lagged.

The barber is short and stocky, maybe 75 years. No slouch with the scissors. He comes at me like mad. Then the razor all over my head. Then he pulls out wads of cotton batten and goes at my ears. But here’s the highlight: imagine my surprise when he pulls his cigarette lighter from his pocket, flicks it on, and proceeds to run the flame over my ears. He doesn’t let the flame linger on any one part of my ear, but he literally burns off any hair on or in my ears, first the right, then the left! It was painful, but my reaction was to laugh, nervously. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. He was intense, unsmiling. I had the urge to get up and run, but I was fascinated.

This was the highlight (“light”), but he pushed me forward and gave me an upper body massage. Brutal on my neck, shoulders, arms, back. Now I really wanted to run. I couldn’t imagine what tricks this guy could still pull out to earn his 20 lira. Then he insisted on washing my hair, but while I bent over the sink he also washed my face, sort of massaging it several times. The stuff in the bottle had only one English word on it: “Delight”. After, he squirted various kinds of stuff all over my head and face, one of them stinging like heck. Finally, he let me go. I gave him a tip of 5 lira, and told him he was an artist. He just nodded. I’ll need one more haircut before we leave Istanbul. I wonder if I’ll have the courage to go back to this artist of the upper body.