Author Archives: MattMet

About MattMet

I am the principal at Maples Met School, a Big Picture Learning school located within the Seven Oaks School Division in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Sixteenth Turkey Epistle

Sixteenth Turkey Epistle

The Farewell Blog

It is almost time to leave Istanbul and Turkey – 2 more days and we fly to Rome.

What are our thoughts? I think it is too early to really assess our time here – we are ready to leave – but feel we have thoroughly lived our days to the full.

The Bosphorous and Black Sea Cruise

To end our time in Istanbul we asked our travel agent to book us on a cruise up the Bosphorous as far as the Black Sea. It was an opportunity to see a few last places on our “list” and to at least dip a toe in the Black Sea. The boat was smallish and owned by a private company and there were about 30 people on board. The guide was a delightful rogue – always addressing us as “dear guests”. The 3 helpers worked so hard to make things nice for us – donning plastic gloves as they served soft drinks and light snacks. At about 2 pm they served us a hot lunch featuring grilled chicken cooked on board. What was most impressive was that the whole crew was fasting because of Ramadan! They do not have ANYTHING from 3 am to 8:30 pm – not even water. And, here they were, serving us food – always with smiles and warm hospitality.

The day was perfect – but – as is always the case – the best part was the people we met. One couple were from New York and we fell in together as if we had always known each other. We didn’t ask the usual -‘what do you do’ questions because we were enjoying sharing this adventure together and joking around, teasing one another in such a natural way. One woman and her 20 year old daughter had just come across the border from Iraq. They had been helping set up a library for Kurdish children! Their organization had taken over 900 books. What an adventure. They had been 45 minutes from Mosul but were only aware of a problem because of the gasoline rationing. She said people lined up for 2 days to get 10 litres. They would mark their spots with rocks and everyone respected the ‘reservation’.

At the Black Sea, we dropped anchor and we went to a tiny beach where Murray went in for a swim – just to say he had. He has now been in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Marmara Sea. On the way out of the Black Sea we were entertained by a group of dolphins. The brochures say this is a possibility so we were delighted when it actually happened.

Our Church Experiences

Murray was able to preach at Christ Church and then race over to concelebrate at the Church of the Resurrection on our second last Sunday. This past Sunday, our last, we attended Christ Church and the rector and people were very warm in their greetings and farewells. The rector had taken us out for lunch at the most interesting restaurant down a warren of lanes, and invited Murray to do a locum some time in the future and stay at his house. (Side Bar: When we were walking away from the restaurant we passed a mosque with a crowd surrounding it, lots of big black cars and men in black suits plus police. i went to one of the guys and asked who was there and it turned out to be the President of Turkey because it was the first Friday of Ramadan).

Murray preached at the Church of the Resurrection for one last time and everyone was very gracious. The wardens presented us with two lovely books – and even provided delivery to Toronto so we didn’t have to figure out how we were going to pack them.

Over the past 3 Sundays we developed the habit of going to the Pera Museum with Ros after church. They have an outstanding art deco salon type coffee shop that we love. This past Sunday we went for one last time with Ros, had a light lunch and then talked for hours before going our separate ways. Ros has become a lovely new friend and it would be nice to think we could keep in touch in some fashion.

Kim and Nurhan live only about a 10 minute walk from us and invited us over for a lovely visit on the Friday evening. It felt very ordinary to walk over to their place – a small feeling of belonging.

Another young woman from the States who is here on a 2 year mission trip has become a friend. She and I have had coffee chats and on Sunday she came with us to hear Murray preach. For reasons that are always mysterious, these serendipitous friendships are always delightful surprises.

On Monday evening we were taken out for dinner by our local travel agent! A charming young woman – we just clicked from the very first. She took us to a rooftop restaurant near the Blue Mosque and we enjoyed finding out more about her. Life is always different in other cultures and we valued hearing about what it is like for her to simply live from day to day.

Tuesday evening we met some people from the Church of the Resurrection near the Galata Tower. The Archbishop of the Middle East was in town and we had dinner with him and his lovely wife Nancy. It was very interesting especially at this time in history. (And it was! More to report when we get home).

Noah’s Ark

I now know what it must have been like on Noah’s ark. We have a favourite outdoor restaurant right on the water in Moda. It is a pleasant one hour walk along the sea wall or through the winding streets from here, and is a nice destination when wanting a walk. But it is outside. One day, I had 3 cats surrounding my chair. Then a lady sat at the next table with her dog – and guess what! There is a reason for the expressions – ‘fighting like cats and dogs’. Finally, things settled down and the waiter brought a basket of bread. Before we knew it, sparrows were all over it. The man next to us just took a piece of bread and put it on the ledge – all very normal – for him.

Flower Ladies

All along the wharf, flower ladies sit with buckets of flowers, calling out to all the passerbys. Most just sit but a few take a bunch of roses and walk up and down the promenade trying to get the young men to buy one for their sweeties. One woman was especially persistent. A young couple were having a cuddle and she went over and started tapping on the guy’s shoulder. He ignored her but she wasn’t going to be deterred so she just kept tapping. When they parted a little, she stuck the flower between them and continued to make her sales pitch. It was going to be interesting to see who won this battle of wills – in the end she lost!

I never know whether to be relieved or disappointed because they NEVER approach Murray to buy one for me – what is that saying?

Medical Information

Apparently Turkish dentists are particularly good. Sabine was telling us that people from Europe like to get their work done here because the Turkish dentists are particularly adept at small motor control. The other procedures that people come here for are hair transplants and plastic surgery. It is not uncommon to see men with their heads wrapped in surgical swaths – looks ghastly. You also see bandaged noses – one fellow had had both procedures done. That was quite a sight.

Marbling

There is a painting technique called ‘marbling’. I had thought of trying a course – but didn’t – but yesterday at an exhibition of Arts and Crafts I had an opportunity to try it out. Very interesting but requiring special chemicals and paints. I do have a lovely picture of a tulip!

Annie

Yesterday we decided to have a snack at a little cafe on the water near the ferry depot. A little Syrian girl came in – all about 8 years old with her little purse across her shoulders and a little plastic shopping bag with packets of kleenex for sale. You need to imagine a dark, curly headed Annie! She had the same mischievous glint in her eye and the cutest little pouty mouth. A beautiful young Turkish woman at the table next to ours started to talk with her and the little girl wriggled in beside her. then the young woman ordered a drink and chicken wrap for the little one. While waiting for the food the two of them chatted away in the most amicable way. Meantime, the young waiters would tousle the little girl’s hair and tease her – very good naturally – but watching to make certain she wasn’t being a nuisance. When the food came, the little girl tucked it away in her bag – obviously to share it with her family. Then the waiters started to urge her to get on her way but she would dance this way and that, going from table to table asking for “just one lira”.

Farewell to Kadikoy

On our last afternoon, after our snack on the wharf, we had our final ice cream cones at the “Victor Hugo” Bookstore – and splurged with their version of Turkish coffee. I am certain they put chocolate in it – and they always have a chocolate covered piece of Turkish Delight alongside.

Then, in the evening, we walked through the familiar market streets to find Mojo. He was in his usual spot outside the little cafe – we greeted one another in the usual Turkish way and explained via a translator that this was our last night and we wanted to have a final glass of wine and say goodbye. To our surprise, Mojo returned with double glasses of wine and a lovely fruit platter. Pictures and shared family photos followed. Finally, when we had to leave, Murray gave him a 30 lira tip (it should have been 2L). In response Mojo offered us Turkish coffees and we knew we couldn’t say no even though we had reservations for dinner at the Franz Kafka Terrace. When we had finished the coffee, Mojo presented us with the handmade corded bracelets he always wore – talk about being undone – it was just too moving. What can you say to that kind of hospitality?

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Fifteenth Turkey Epistle

Fifteenth Turkey Epistle

Istanbul Design Centre (IDC)

Thursday, July 26th and the first day of my 2 day workshop at the Istanbul Design Centre. The first part of the adventure started with the decision for me to go there alone. Murray had 2 sermons and a presentation to the Church of the Resurrection Parish Council to work on so he needed the time here at home to work.

Come along with me as I wend my way over to the European side of the Bosphorous. The first thing we need to do is cross the street – be careful as the buses, taxis and cars whiz by and the pedestrians crisscross every which way – and watch your step – there are all sorts of things to cause a trip, bump or stumble!

We are now at the ferry – be careful of the steps and ramps – you don’t want to hit a step when you think you have a smooth ramp! The ferry is bobbing about so hang onto the hand of the kind man offering assistance. It is a beautiful day so let’s go up to the top deck to enjoy the view.

As we head out ,look over to the right and you will see the old Hayerpasha train station. This was once part of the Orient Express line built by a German firm in the 1800’s. It was badly damaged during the First World War when it was used as an ammunition depot – and, of course, things exploded. It has been beautifully restored as an historical site but also a ferry dock, an outdoor cafe, and a restaurant. Brides love to come for their pictures. A little further along note the red tiled roofs of the army barracks. Somewhere near them is the site of the hospital where Florence Nightingale nursed the wounded from the Crimean War.

The teaman is coming so we will have a glass of cay and enjoy the rest of our journey. The sea is very calm – except for the wakes of all the ferries and the sun makes the water glisten. The gulls are swooping with abandon and their wings make breathtaking arcs against the blue sky.

Now we are approaching land – listen carefully to the announcement. Are we stopping at Karikoy or Eminonu? We need Eminonu so we mustn’t make a mistake – altho, if we do get off at the wrong port we would only need to walk over the Galata Bridge ( 15 minute walk). A Sultan princess had this bridge built for the poor of Istanbul to make their journey from one side of the Golden Horn to the other much easier.

Whew! We are at Eminonu – and there is the New Mosque which is right next to the Spice Bazaar. Using the underpass, we go by some guys selling cute little spinning tops, and come out across from the tramway. Now we need to be mindful of taking the tramway in the right direction. Fortunately, it is early and there are few people so it is easy to see where we are going. The tramway is very new, comfortable and air conditioned. Aboard, a kind man offers me his seat – is it my new blond looks? Three stops later and we arrive at the Sultanhamet district.
This is the centre of the original heart of Constantinople – the historical hub.

We will now walk the rest of the way to the IDC. First we pass the ruins of Constantine’s original palace, down a few steps and come out to old Hippodrome. To our left is Hagia Sofia, over and beyond to the right is the Blue Mosque. We will walk along the old Hippodrome site passing the Egyptian obelisk ( approximately 1500 BC), the Serpentine column and the Colossus. However, we don’t have time today to stop because we must hurry to a narrow street towards the right. Two more blocks and we turn right – the street is very steep so be careful! To our left are the ruins of an ancient church, and, the entrance to the Mosque of Sokollu Mehmet Pasha (1571 AD). But, to our right is the entrance to the Istanbul Design Centre – located in an ancient Dervish Lodge.

Zeynap Undar, the student we met on our first visit, is there to greet me and offers a seat at a table in the atrium and a glass of cay. It is early so the time to relax and get my bearings is very welcome.

At 10:30 we enter the small classroom – about 12’ x 18’ with places for 5 students. For the next 2 days this is where 8 people will work. There are 5 students, one instructor, Zeynap the student helper and Erika. Erika is the Director for Development and has been assigned to me as my interpreter for the entire 2 days. She is an absolute delight. Originally from one of the old Soviet Union satellite countries, she went to high school in the States and had lived in Regina!!! Regina – imagine.

It is only a little intimidating as the other students come in and begin to unpack their bags. I didn’t know we had to have our own equipment – yikes. But, I am assured that I am not to worry because they will supply all that I need. Two of the students have been studying at the Centre all year, one is studying at another institution and is here to learn enamelling. She is a ceramist but her jewellery designs have become so good she is beginning to sell them. The fourth student owns a jewellery design shop along with her husband. They specialize in custom designs using gold and precious stones. Then there’s me –

Before long we are given small squares of copper to scour with brillo pads, files of all sorts, sandpaper and scouring sponges. The copper has to be very smooth and clean before we can apply the enamel dust. Once the copper squares are clean and ready for enamelling, all the windows and doors are closed, the AC is turned off, we put on masks and the two annealing ovens are turned on – 800 C – and it is blazing hot outside! The dust is very fine so there cannot be any air movement while we are using it and we must be careful not to breathe it in. Eight hot bodies, two extremely hot ovens – and intense concentration – imagine!!! But what a lot of fun. A couple of the students could speak some English and were very kind to me. Watching the others gave me all sorts of ideas and we tended to stimulate the creative juices of one another.

The first day we made simple squares to be used as earrings or small pendants but the second day we worked on the full squares. We were encouraged to try a variety of techniques so I cut out a tulip, then used glass beads on a circular disc, and finally, cut out a stencil to make a seagull flying over the Bosphorous!

Before I left, Fatma, our incredible instructor, attached various chains and cords to my pieces so I left with 5 usable necklaces. She is a woman of great generosity. While working on the chains, etc., she brought out 2 red merino glass tulips and told me to choose one – and then proceeded to make it into a necklace.

This was an unforgettable experience – I am humbled by the kindness of all the people at this institution and will be eternally grateful for the privilege of being part of them.

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Fourteenth Turkey Epistle

Fourteenth Turkey Epistle

People

We continue to meet wonderful people. One day at breakfast I invited a man on his own to join us for breakfast. He and his family were here to investigate universities for their oldest son. He was saying that because all the Arabic languages are so related that his son will be able to learn Turkish in 3 months – I was so-o-o—o envious! He went to say that he might even move his business here. I asked him what it was and when he said he was an audiologist I suggested that Murray could perhaps become his first client!

Then, on another day, we went to Engin and Mine’s home for a barbecue with a few others from the church. This was especially nice on two levels. first of all, it was interesting to go to a newer neighbourhood – about 40 years old. A change from the ancient areas we always seem to frequent. Secondly, it was to be with people from here in a purely social situation.

Nurhan and Kim are a lovely couple from Church. Nurhan teaches Math at the university and is a Turk of Armenian background. Kim is an American taking her doctorate in Ethno music. Both exercise leadership roles in the church. We had tea with them. They live relatively close to us so we were able to walk to a central spot to meet. Lovely to talk about all the things in our lives.

Anniversary

June 24th was our wedding anniversary! We started the day by going to the Hilton for bacon and an omelet. Sitting in the garden, we had freshly squeezed orange juice and wonderful coffee. One of the realities here is confusion when ordering things because of the language difference. We ended up with an American, double espresso and cappuccino. this was followed by 2 Turkish coffees in the lounge courtesy of the hostess in honour of our anniversary. Honey was available in a real honeycomb and we were able to have brown toast! Little luxuries.

In the evening we went out for dinner at the Kafka (after Franz Kafka) restaurant and cafe. There is an open air terrace on the fifth floor. What a panorama – the Bosphorous and then beyond that the skyline with the Blue Mosque, Haiga Sofia and the Topkapi Palace. Ros and Yuce joined us – very special to have new friends to celebrate with us. And of course, amazing food!

I’m a Blond!

I thought it was time for me to have a pedicure after all the walking we’ve been doing. The manager of our hotel took me to a place quite near here and directed them to give me a manicure AND pedicure. Well, that was okay. A lovely lady with the usual tea and lots of sign language. then the stylist, with sign language, suggested my hair need help. He was right of course but it not the type of negotiation one should do without a dictionary – I am now a blond! He said, “In Canada – brunette, this – (pointing to my head), Turkey. It is fun and funny. People are being very kind and complimentary 🙂

Hats

Murray and I both brought our wide brimmed hats to protect our delicate skin from the Turkish sun – but it seems we are almost the only ones in all of Istanbul wearing them. One smart pants said as we were passing, :Hey cowboy, where’s your horse?).

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Thirteenth Turkey Epistle

Thirteenth Turkish Epistle

An Adventure With The Turkish Banking System:

While at Christ Church, we noticed that there was going to be a lecture on the history of Turkey from the Ottomans to the First World War. This was to be held at the former British Embassy in the grand ballroom with a glass of wine. Sounded fascinating! To buy tickets (this is the short story), we had to deposit 70TL into the rector’s bank account. He sent us all the relevant information and off we went to the closest branch. It turned out that because it was not his branch we would have had to pay a fee of 35TL. We thanked the teller for saving us the money and giving us the information about the branch we needed.

The next day we went over to Taksim (Murray had an appointment with a scholar there anyway). Stopping in at the branch closest to the church, we waited a 1/2 hour for service before Murray had to leave to get to his appointment – so I was left in charge. Speaking to a teller I was assured it would only be another 10 or 15 minutes. Half an hour later, this same teller called me over and with concern said – “your number isn’t coming up”, and decided to look after me. Opening up the account he saw that this still was not the correct branch but found the right one for me and told me how to get there. Fifteen minutes later I was in the correct branch, took a number (by this time I knew the routine) and sat down to wait. Thirty-five minutes later my number was finally called. But … things were not going to be easy. It turned out that I needed a Turkish tax number to complete the transaction and it didn’t matter that I was from outside the country and couldn’t possibly have one. I was not too happy with Turkey at that moment. In sheer frustration, I walked to the House Cafe and drowned my frustrations in a tall glass of House Limonata with lime!

Later, at home, I emailed the contacts at the church and described my experience. They were very apologetic, very sympathetic and said they felt they could trust the reliability of Canadians to show up. So, our names are on the list – and we will let you know how things go from there.

Electricity

I am very impressed with the energy conservation protocols here. I mentioned that the lights in our stairwells are motion sensitive. This is the same for all other buildings. Not only are the lights in hallways designed this way but also those in washrooms. One day, we came across a public escalator that only ran when someone needed to use it. It is all very sensible.

Transportation

As you can well imagine moving 18 million people is a challenge and we think they do an amazing job here. There are the ferries – both public and private. Then there are regular taxis; small buses which are 15 person minivans; slightly larger buses ,called dolmus, that can negotiate the narrow side streets; larger buses like ours; funiculars, tramways – big and small, subways and, of course, the Tunel. Thanks to Murray’s perseverance we are beginning to understand and make use of these various forms of transit. We haven’t been able to figure out the dolmus and minivan system but as all the other forms of transit work we are ok.

Salesmen:

A typical line used by sales men here is as follows:

The Scene: 2 tourists (like us) standing or walking alone in a square. A lone Turk comes along side and asks, “Where are you from? Have you been here long? Have you been to the Blue Mosque yet?” By now the unwary traveller is probably beginning to enjoy this conversation. Then comes the punchline, “Perhaps you would like to visit my shop?”

This happens so often that now we don’t bother engaging with these guys. Yesterday, however, we were reading our guide book and a lovely fellow came up, started with the opening line and we just brushed him off. He assured us he wasn’t a guide, etc., and did help us get oriented. As he left he said, “I truly just like to help”. We felt pretty foolish.

Babies:

I forgot to tell you that the young woman carrying twins had them the Friday after we saw her in church – a boy and a girl. This past Sunday they were in church – just a month old and of course awfully cute. Lots of eager people waiting to cuddle them.

Turkish History:

I’ve been trying to understand some of recent Turkish history – and by that I mean from the Ottomans on. Bit by bit through tours of old buildings, novels, and museums I am beginning to get a sense of the people involved in the history of this complex society. One thing I found interesting was that originally Turks were nomadic people and therefore lived in tents rather than fixed abodes. Even when they began to establish themselves in urban communities this simple, pragmatic lifestyle governed how they lived. For example, instead of the rulers building palaces, they built pavilions. So Topkapi Palace is a series of buildings or pailions. As more space was needed, they simply built another pavilion. This was the pattern until the 1800’s when more of the Turkish elite began visiting European cities and saw the palaces in France, Britain and Italy. In the mid 1800’s the Sultan ordered the construction of an opulent new palace called Dolmabache. It was so extravagant (and built at a time when the Ottoman empire was almost bankrupt ) that it is said that the debts incurred hastened the decline. Turkey had to borrow from other countries to pay for this palace and then was unable to repay.

The lecture at the British Consulate was very interesting. The lecturer was Dr. Phillip Mansell and spoke on the period from the Ottomans until the First World War. This was part of a series to commemorate the anniversary of WW1. To illustrate his talk he used slides of pictures from two art galleries we had just visited the previous week – both Ottoman collections – one at the Pera Museum and the other at the museum in the Dolmabache Palace. Having our separate experiences beginning to overlap is one of the delights of having time to absorb the information coming to us from all directions.

The British consulate was built in the 1800’s on a palatial scale to illustrate the importance of Britain as a world power. The ballroom was magnificent with 2 impressive crystal chandeliers and all the gilt that goes with pomp. What was most astounding was to be in such luxury both in a historical and a structural sense – but currently in use! It was extremely well maintained and all the side rooms and seating areas in hallways were furnished with beautiful antiques that were functional. It looked like a museum but was,in fact, a government office building that was still relevant.

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:)

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.