Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two Buildings, Three Pictures

On the way home from Greece I crossed the Bosphorus from Harem to Eminonu just after sunrise. Here is a picture I took of Kiz Kulesi, (Princess or Girl's Tower). I'm quite proud of this one. That's part of the business district of Istanbul in the background.

And, (in my opinion) the most under-rated building in Istanbul, the Sirkeci Train Station--built specifically to wow visitors arriving on the famed Orient Express. I think this building might be my favorite in the city. The Orient Express only pulls into this station once a year now, (usually in the spring), but crowds of people go down to welcome it.

Unfortunately, these days the old interurban train runs from this station. Instead of glamourous intercontinental travelers, the train is filled with gypsies and low income Istanbulites, (and sometimes curious Canadians).

Old men and young boys go from car to car selling cheap super glue, pens and plastic toys. Mel and I got a little plastic devices that juice lemons once. They really work wonders.

Sometimes the doors don't close properly. The windows get jammed open in the winter and jammed closed in the summer, but the route it takes along the seaside is beautiful.

All trains heading to Europe also leave from this station.

Samos, Greece!

Last September, Mel and I went on a trip to Samos, Greece. It’s just an hour from Turkey, and we went partly to renew my visa and partly to get a taste of Greece.
Mel wrote a great entry about how I almost sent her to a Turkish prison here in her blog if you missed it. (Ok not really.)
Last week, needing another visa and not really keen on Bulgaria, I went back to Samos again. It wasn’t quite as fun without a sister there to listen to my corny comments and lame jokes, but it was a nice getaway.
I swam in the Aegean, OD’d on that fantastic lemon yogurt they sell over there and ate the “forbidden white meat”. Yummy!

Go away kid. Get your own fantastically delicious gyro!
I guess to pick two highlights I would have to say No. 1 would be stumbling across this church in Pythagoras. The inside was your usual Greek Church décor, crammed with icons, intricately carved chairs and more icons, hardly giving your eye a place to rest.
But the real reason this place was a highlight was because several monks were sealed away from the public area by a partial wall. You couldn’t see them, but you could hear them and their voices easily cleared that wall and them some. I sat for a long time listening to them sing and chant, their voices were strong and soothing and the way they sang was very relaxing and also, very touching.
Then a guy came and kicked me out. One o’clock siesta!
Hello! The main shopping street at  1pm!
The second thing I found fascinating were these weeds. I noticed them on the bus ride back from Pythagoras. They covered the hills and roadside. Of course I walked forever in the heat looking for these, only to find some a few meters towards the beach from my hotel. 
A little searching on the Internet led me to Poison Hemlock. Eek! Deadly stuff!
“Be wary of this plant--0.5% by weight is enough to kill a person, and people have died from eating as few as 8 leaves--but consider that most of us have probably picked it as children, mistaking it for Queen Anne's Lace.”
Queen Anne’s Lace! Whew! My weeds have a dark red flower in the middle, a sure fire way to know your dealing with the safe stuff. False alarm!
All in all it was a very relaxing nice break from the chaos of Istanbul. Got back home with very little drama, although the woman who stamped my passport on the way into Turkey was the same one who busted me on the way out last time! 

Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't Forget The Maps and The Martinis!

A few people have asked about the title - 3 Beekman Place.

I love the movie Auntie Mame. When Mame finally returns to her New York apartment after several years of traveling the world she exclaims...

"Oh my Beekman Place apartment! No matter how far I go or how long I've been gone, it just sits and waits for my return!"

3 Beekman Place is her apartment address.

Obviously I'm not an independently(ish) rich, New York city socialite, so my "3 Beekman Place" will have to be virtual.

Free Stuff!

A few weeks ago, the security guard taking care of the building behind us asked if we wanted any free desks. The building was a restaurant and office space, but it's going to be converted into an emergency clinic. We didn't take any of the huge desks he was giving away but we got 2 cupboards!

Check out our new white TV cupboard! (The other one is in the bedroom.) 

Ok, so the REALLY ironic thing is that as I look at this picture, I can honestly say that besides my computer, and the blue cover on the sofa, everything in this picture was given to us or acquired for free. The carpets, the sofa, the tables, the TV and all the plants. Even the throw cushions! 

Now I feel CHEAP!! I guess I still have some rummage left in me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wandering in Galata

Last night was a beautiful summer evening, so I went wandering. Here are a few pics I took along the way.

The first is the re-opened old funicular tunnel that runs from Karakoy to Tunel, (yes I spelled that right). This is the second oldest underground, (the London tubes are first). 

Before, the old station had original Iznik tiles lining the walls at the lower station. Considering just one of those tiles would fetch several thousand pounds at Sotheby's auction house, it's no surprise the old tiles disappeared, only to be replaced with new Iznik tiles, still handpainted, still valuable, but not original. (Sorry no pic of the new tiles.) 

Anyway, one thing I do love about this tunnel is that it's now lit all the way through from bottom to top. As you ascend or descend, you can see all the original brickwork inside. (You get the idea from the above picture.) The ride is bumpy, the car creeks and the ride is less than a minute, but  I love it. It feels like a real piece of "Old Stamboul".

At the top of the funicular, you emerge into Tunel, an area filled with music stores. I have spied the Turkish brass cymbals here marked "Ziljian", just like the ones that belonged to my dad's drum kit when I was a kid. Now I understand. "Zil" means cymbal, and "ji"means maker in Turkish. I haven't figured out what the last "an" is yet. 

This is the old "Nostaljik Tramway" that still runs up and down Istiklal Street.

This fourth picture is of the beloved Galata Tower. The square below has undergone a real transformation in the past year, trendy restaurants and boutique stores have sprung up. 

On this night there was a free concert. The group was playing their hit song that's used in a popular Turkish sitcom, (even I recognized it!) There were two lone dancers out front. It was a real August Fair at Manitou Park moment. (People from Naramata will understand.)

Free concerts in the summer are an expected regular occurrence in Istanbul. In fact as I write this I can hear music coming across the street from the park. I'm hot and sweaty on the second floor of the agency. Think I'll go check it out. 

Monday, June 16, 2008

Good Morning!

I've been thinking about doing this for so long now. My sister already writes an entertaining and informative blog here.  Since Mel started blogging, I've been asked countless times, by countless people when I'm going to start. Although I know it's a good idea, and I really enjoy Mel's blog, I have been hesitant to commit to writing the boring details of my life. 

But then I started thinking.. 
  1. I take heaps of pics every week and no one sees them. 
  2. There are loads of interesting people around with engaging stories that no one hears about. 
  3. I live in an often misunderstood part of the world. 
So just to see how this works here are 2 pics of local markets. The first is the Beyazit book bazaar, located just outside the Grand Bazaar. Besides books, vendors also like to sell prints and miniature paintings. On fridays here is a big rummage sale out back of this bazaar that I rarely get to go to. There is a guy in the far back corner who sells all sorts of new and used, hard to find ESL texts, and he loves to see me coming! 

The second is our local produce market held every wednesday behind the Blue Mosque. Excellent local produce from throughout the country is brought in. If it's in season, it's here first! 

So, here I go! Please grant me patience and tolerance while I get the hang of this!

Now where is my coffee...