Sunday, June 14, 2009

There's no place like home Auntie Entity

My dear friends, it took a long day of travel but I have arrived home safely. It was good to be in my own bed and to have my kitties sleeping with me. It was a wonderful adventure. I felt a lot like Scarlett O'hara at times..........depending on the kindness of strangers. It inspired me to try to be more helpful to people who seemed lost or confused or who don't speak English well. So many people helped me find places, figure out how things worked and generally made me feel welcome in their countries that I'd like to pay it forward, if I can. Jax

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hasta la vista, Turkey

The Blue Mosque, cemetary, tomb of Sinan (the architect of Suleyman's Mosque), train station, tile museum and archaeological Museum.
Today I started out at the Archaeological Museum. Wow, there are things there from the early Mesopotamian and Anatolian cultures, some as old as 2700 BCE. What from our time will survive that long??? There is a group of sarcophagi found in 1880 in Sidon (now part of Lebanon). They were in 2 burial chambers and they are thought to belong to the Royal family of Sidon from the 4th century BCE. There were lots of other artifacts, a whole exhibit of things found in a bunch of wrecked ships. I liked that there were bins of pieces sitting out where you could see them. It helps you understand how much work goes into piecing some of this stuff back together for display. In the same compound is a museum of ceramics and tiles. Next I went to the train station. The Orient Express used to arrive here from Paris. There are still some cool items from that time on display. After that I walked through the spice market, what an experience for the senses. So much to see, hear and smell. Near the spice market I sat down in a little cafe for a snack. The waitress didn't speak much English. She asked me if I speak French. So I used bon, merci and sil vous plait. It worked well enough for me to get rice pudding and tea. After my break I walked to the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificant. I used my guide and map but kept having to stop and ask. I see a lot more this way than I would by using a direct route. I walked by the Barcelona Saray Hotel, which is where Joe and Hilla were staying when they met. I kept seeing minarets, thinking I was almost there. Except you can't swing a dead cat in this town without hitting a mosque. So I saw a bunch of others on the way. I was on a small street with all the bead shops, went into one and was starting to get the fever when the owner said "sorry madame, we are closing for prayers". Sure enough, I went out onto the street and shops were closed, displays were covered and all along the street were men on rugs and pieces of cardboard waiting for the call to prayer. When I finally got to Suleman's Mosque, most of it was closed for renovation. You can see the scaffolding on the minarets. Only one small part of an outer courtyard was open for prayer. From there I walked on to the Grand Bazaar. On my way I walked through a nearby courtyard where all the unlicensed peddlers gather to show their stuff. Just as I got there, the police arrived. You never saw people move so fast. Funny thing, they didn't leave, just packed their stuff up into a bad or briefcase and sat trying to look non chalant. It was like a game, I don't think the police wanted to arrest anyone, too much work and with the economy these guys are just trying to make a living. So the police sat and the peddlers sat, I wanted to see how it would play out but decided to press on. The Grand Bazaar was much more modern and commercial than I expected. More like being in a mall with shops selling everything from high end jewlery to trashy kitsch.
Well, I've been gone 3 weeks and am ready to head home. I have had an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. I feel so lucky to have been able to go so many places and see so many things. I met people from all over. I will miss the outdoor lifestyle people here enjoy. But am done living out of a suitcase, want my own bed, bath and food. Kimberly, if you are following, warn my kitties, they are going to get squeezed and I will wear them on my head like a hat if I can. It seems fitting that the trip that was instigated by Joe and Hilla's wedding should end here where it all began for them. I hope all is going well for them as they get ready to move to DC so Joe can start training.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this trip possible and to Wesley for teaching me to blog. Being able to keep in touch has helped stave off the loneliness from traveling alone. Aren't the internets wonderful? Hope you enjoyed traveling with me, I'll be home late Saturday. See you all soon, XOXOX Jax

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Feet don't fail me now




Dolmabahce Palace, gate to the high school, protesters. St Antony's, little book shop, weights and measures, Galata tower. Rose Cotton, Blue Mosque, mosaic museum. Carpet weaver, more Blue Mosque, Chora Church, underground cistern.
Thursday afternoon, and ıf my feet hold out another day I have a few more thıngs to see. Yesterday I took the tram across the Galatas brıdge and went to the Dolmabahçe Palace. Thıs ıs where the sultans lıved up untıl the tıme Turkey became a Republıc. You have to put lıttle plastıc bags on your feet and go wıth a guıde, there ıs so much valuable and hıstorıc stuff they are really tryıng hard to preserve ıt. No photos ınsıde eıther. They have the bed that last Sultan dıed ın. I also went to see the Harem whıch was a separate buıldıng wıth the apartments of the 4 wıves and the Sultan's mother. There were Peacocks runnıng around loose ın the courtyard. I have to tell you, the peacocks make me wonder about creationism. What sort of animal could the peacock have evolved from? When you see them stand that fan up and spread it out, with all the irridescent colors and the little triangle shaped feathers at the end. Somebody thought about this one. Then I rode an underground funıcular up the hıll to Taksım square. Thıs ıs ın the 'new dıstrıct'. I walked down Istıkal St (or Starbuck Street to me), a pedestrıan street lıned wıth shops and cafes. Also Burger Kıng, KFC, Pızza Hut, Gap, Levı get the pıcture. I stopped and had some lunch at a cafe, some kınd of grılled beef and cheese wrap. More walkıng and the Mado Cafe for ıce cream. I saw police get out of a van wıth what looked lıke rıot gear. Plastıc shlelds and bıg stıcks. I started walkıng agaın and found a bunch of protestors near the hıgh school. They were loud but peaceable, just showıng off theır banners for the medıa. I walked on and found a cool used book shop. Whıle I was ın ıt the protestors marched down the street closely followed by the polıce. The shop owner saıd ıt was some sort of protest about the world bank. I went into St Anthony's Catholic Church, it was cool and quiet. I lit a candle and sat a while. After that I went to the Pera Museum. A modern buıldıng wıth a ceramıcs exhıbıt on loan from the V and A. Very cool stuff. A lower floor had relıcs from the old navy ıncludıng navagatıon ıntruments and logbooks. The last exhıbıt was a hıstorıc look at weıghts and measures. After the museum I walked to the Galata Tower. Buılt as a 14th century fortıfıcatıon ıt now has a bar, restaurant and lookout at the top. At the base of the tower there was a lıttle arts faır goıng on. I met Rose Cotton, her hats were the coolest. We talked a whıle about Isabel Blow and Phılıp Treacy, shop talk. From there I walked back down to the tram stop and rode ıt back to Sultanahmet, my neıghborhood. I fınally fıgured out the way back to the hotel from the Hagıa Sophıa. It's only about 3 blocks. Boy was I wıped out.

Thıs mornıng my feet were stıll hurtıng but after some Tylenol and coffee, off I went agaın. I started at the Blue Mosque, really very ımpressıve. Then to the Topkapı Palace. Thıs ıs a whole compound of buıldıngs that was the home to Suleyman the Magnıfıcant. Now some of the buıldıngs house hıs clothıng and othe treasures. A sword that belonged to the prophet, jewel encrusted everythıng, stuff that looks lıke Vegas showgırl headresses. Then I went to the Mosaıc museum. They have preserved some of the mosaıcs from the floor of the palace of Constantıne. Incredıble, especıally readıng all about how they have put the pıeces together on a new base and cleaned then wıthout damagıng the stones. I headed toward the tour bus stop, I had decıded to take the hour and half rıde all around the cıty to get an overvıew and rest my tootsıes. However, on my way I saw a woman sıttıng outsıde a carpet shop tyıng sılk thread onto warp thread strung lıke a loom. I was fascınated. she had a knıfe ın one hand and as she tıed she cut. The shopkeeper ınvıted me to sıt down besıde her, I knew I was beıng sucked ın for the hard sell but I couldn,t resıst. Her hands just flew. She was usıng a chart wıth the pattern on ıt lıke for counted cross stıtch. She put the colors ın, 2 or 3 rows at a tıme, then went back ın and fılled ın wıth the black for outlınes. She dıd rough cuts at fırst, then went back wıth scıssors and cut the pıle smooth. I went ın to see some of the thıngs she had fınıshed. A Gorgeous Tree of Lıfe pattern carpet that she had worked on over a year. It was 1100 dollars and worth every penny. I wısh I could have bought somethıng lıke that, a real craft ıtem made by hand wıth skılls handed down over generatıons. It took me a little whıle to extract myself, the shopkeeper thought I was tryıng to brıng the prıce down, but eventually I walked on. I got on the bıg red double decker bus. Road across the Golden Horn on the Galata brıdge and back across the Ataturk brıdge around to the dıstrıct called Edırnekapı. I got off there and walked to the Chora Church museum. On the way there I passed by a shop where a man was stitching, looked like repairing cothing. I stopped in and he let me look at his industrial Brother and a serger made by Rockwell. Never saw one of those before. At Chora the mosaıcs are from the Byzantıne era and remarkably well preserved. I had a late lunch at a cafe next door where I fed a lot of my toast (cheese panını) and rıce puddıng to a hungry kıtty. It was gettıng late and I wasn't sure I could get back to the tour bus pıck up spot ın tıme to catch the last bus, so I decıded to take a cab back. There was a cab stand by a hotel nearby so I got ın the fırst ın lıne. I told the drıver Hagıa Sophıa, fıgurıng that was close enough. The drıver was a skınny older man, so anxıous and upset by the traffıc. It was at least 4;30 by then and very congested every where. We got part way there and he started sayıng somethıng to me about the traffıc beıng a bıg problem. He got upset that I couldn't understand hım past that. At one poınt I thought he wanted me to get out and walk but he fınally got me about 2 blocks away. Whew. I decıded to see the Underground Cıstern. Thıs was buılt on the sıte of a former basılıca durıng the reıgn of Emperor Justınıan ın the 6th century AD. Thıs place ıs straıght out of Phantom of the Opera. The columns are recycled from old Roman ruıns and 2 bıg blocks wıth the head of Medusa were used to prop columns at one end. There are fısh ın the water and a platform stage for some type of performances.

Tomorrow I'll see a few more thıngs then get ready to head home. I'm ready to be where most everyone speaks Englısh, I can drınk tap water and sleep ın my own bed. I mıss my sıster, neıghbors and frıends. I have seen so many scrawny anımals here, I'm ready to hand feed tuna to mıne. XOXOXO Jax
Altho there is something cool about being out in public and hearing 4 or 5 languages being spoken.