Friday, 21 May 2010

more on preparations.

Still not there

I knew it. Murphy was and is and will be right.
I should never yawn and stretch the morning before or on the day of the trip. The tendons on the calf bunch up in the shape and hardness of a rock with excruciating pain. You yell for your wife to pull your toe. She pulls the wrong toe where you have a slightly ingrown toenail which is supposed to wait for your return. So now you have two problems on the same leg, with the ingrown toenail penetrating deeper.

You compound your mistake for going for a Thai massage at your wife's gym. The masseuse does not speak english or Turkish. Your Thai is non-existent. the calf and the toe now seem to be irreparably damaged.

The question is, "Do i forget about the train tickets and we take the 'about 99 Pound' cab, bringing the cost to 247 Pounds? Or somehow manage to climb a coach and possibly halve the cost, but still needing a short transfer from Victoria?

Leave it all to fate or to the toe fairy. Finish your luggage, unnecessarily pack a blazer and tie for the theatre so that you can suffocate in the tiny space which threatens to swallow you whole and break your joints at the same time, while you have the additional lump of your badly folded jacket on your lap.

Diabetic, hypertension, cholesterole, mood medicine for six days just in case, five pairs underwear and socks, also just in case, three (two unnecessary) dress shirts, no sneakers (you do not want them in London) Off to sleep with nightmares of everything you probably forgot to pack.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Short London Visit

Flight tickets ready, hotel reservation complete, suitcases being aired for take off on wednesday 14th. Already got tickets for the 39 Steps and Dreamboats and Petticoats. Camden town, Brighton and the bookstores and the Chinese, italian and Indian restaurants are waiting for us to cheer them up. A quick dash in and dash out in less than four days.

Trouble started today. But no matter. Everyone makes mistakes, even the great otherchelebi. Checked the e-ticket and realized that i had bought the cheaper tickets from Sabiha Gokcen to Stansted. Well, no big deal. Sabiha Gokcen probably has cheaper long term parking, and it should be half price with my Prive card from Garanti Bank. And, isn't Stansted the same thing as "City Airport?"

No it isn't. You check for transportation from Stanstead and discover that a taxi will cost "about 99 Pounds" . Why not about 100 Pounds? you wonder before the figure hits you. OK, so you reduce the garments and the size of the suitcases and check for the train. 18 Pounds each to Liverpool Street madhouse station. More research tells you that you can actually get off earlier, pay less for the train and pick the Victoria Line immediately and hopefully at an easier transfer point with suitcases, which will deposit you within 100 meters of your hotel. Return tickets for two 49 Pounds plus underground. and it is still not rush hour. and there should be time to rest before we tackle the 39 steps. That is unless the ticket machine at Stansted does not eat up my credit card.

Unfortunately, the late Peter Ustinov wrote his "Book of Worries" before i could write mine. Wish he had consulted me, i would have been able to put the fear of so many other things in his mind, and in technicolour also.

I remember a hotel behind Selfridges 15-20 years ago, where the window was slat-paned and unclosable even in winter and i almost froze, the same as when i was invited to stay at the house of David L. colleague and friend, even longer ago than that.

Now that i mention him, i remember, driving to Cappadocia with him to attend a reception of a now defunct insurance company. To this date i have not been able to puzzle out the traffic sign you see frequently on sloping Turkish highways which has the smaller picture of an umbrella and a larger one of a skidding car. With the skidding car picturer on top!! Does it mean, as David L. said, "When you slide, use an umbrella?"

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Western Black sea Part IV To Sinop and Back

Western Black Sea Part IV Agli, Kure, Inebolu, Sinop, Boyabat, Tosya, Ilgaz.

Agli's mysterious sign only looked like a castle. The villagers directed us to what they called 'the castle' also. What we found was a rather high, large mesa with lots of animal holes and a picnic area where we could actually drive around on the rocks and the grass. Two hours of hidden castle and another wedding gown shop, we were on our way to pick a highschool student hitchhiker from his village on the way near the copper mines of Kure, down to his school in Inebolu.I do not remember what we had eaten in Kure, but we were not hungry enough to spend time searching for the historic Inebolu Doner restaurant, so we pushed off to Sinop. Our hotel was towards the end of the peninsula, past the city of Sinop. it was a nice area and very quiet. The older British couple we saw in the restaurant were not interested in striking a conversation, Eser could not have cared less because she was already three quarters asleep. However, I forced her to drive back to the city with me to taste the famous Sinop Manti at "Teyzenin Yeri", where we made the mistake of ordering ten kilos of the stuff uncooked to be picked in the morning, although they did say they could not prepare it until 11AM, the next morning.We spent the morning taking photographs around the city including a couple where we were warned not to by a military guard. Picked the manti finally finished at 11:15, drove to an old structure to have a look at the handicrafts center, spent too long there, ate their version of manti, bought totally unnecessary handicrafts just because we had the space in the car, drove off only to discover, after an hour, that Eser had left her handbag at the regional handicraft place. Called, found no one to answer the phone, drove back discussing how far the new owners of the handbag could go on whatever cash and credit card use they could make. So, after a total of two hours extra but very scenic drive, we got back to the shop, to find the handbag where Eser had left it partially covered by the one table cloth left in the shop that she decided we and our daughters and her friends and our families and her trainer did not need.Drove up to Boyabat, past some very poor villages where we gave away whatever we could to the kid on the street who immediately started fighting over the spoils, then to Tosya where we had to buy some of the famous rice, and dry beans, and tarhana soup mix. There were no decent hotels, it was getting late, and time for a surprise and a reward to Eser for being so understanding of my mistakes and forgetfulness on the entire trip. Well actually, it was the lady attendant at the roadside stall, who said to me, "Why don't you treat her to a luxurious night at the Mountain Resort?" when I asked her about lodging in the area. She was a tough single mother and more aware of her rights than most women you meet in cosmopolitan Istanbul, and was working to send her daughter to university.Anyway, the trip through Ilgaz town up the Ilgaz mountain took another hour or so, and suddenly we were in freezing weather and established in a one bedroom apartment for the night at the Mountain Resort, where, if we wished we could even have had a fireplace going. There was three inches of snow on the ground and the car the next morning. We loved it, but took off for the road back to Istanbul, after we made sure that we did not leave anything in our hotel room.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Western Black Sea Part III Pinarbasi to Agli

Western Black Sea Part III Pinarbasi to Agli

The two nights at Pasa Konagi belonged to another time and age. But time travel is like that. You cannot stay too long in a specific past. Come to think of it, I do know some people like that, who spend almost all their days in bits and pieces of their past. Nothing exotic or historic; just standard past of almost faceless people and colourless stage settings, full of regrets and only the occasional rainbow.

The second day was very full, with canyons, waterfalls, and discussions of local politics with a honey producer where we parked our car (and paid a fee to the autistic youth who gave us directions as good as the mayor’s cousin.) The honey man had disappeared from his house on our walk back from Valla Canyon. Back in town, that Sunday, we managed to find the cousin, who took us to his uncle, the mayor, who sent someone to call the headmaster of the large Pinarbasi Highschool. The headmaster, a dour and sour man, who could not show any appreciation, accepted our gifts of two dozen or more jeans, anoraks, tea shirts, underwear and sweaters, as well as about fifty children’s books, and had them carried by a more cheerful crew of school employees, whose eyes sparkled (could it be because of the low protein diet their meager salaries allowed them.

These highschools at central small towns or large villages usually have children bussed anywhere from three to twenty or so smaller villages which have primary schools where kids are bused from even smaller villages. Pinarbasi Highschool also had a large student body of poor boarding students from the area and was a good place to leave our gifts, although we came to an even poorer area later, near Boyabat on our way, where we had only a few small things left to give away.

Early the next morning, possibly about nine thirty, we fed the three dogs, the four
puppies and the three cats, before we left.

I liked the sound of the name “Azdavay” and decided that we would go there and then toss a coin to see whether we should continue to Kastamonu or to Inebolu.

Azdavay had nothing going for it, but our “Koy Koy Turkiye” atlas showed something, a mysterious sign as usual, at Agli, and we decided to continue to Agli, Kure and Inebolu without falling into the trap of Luke Reinheart (The Dice Man), or Tom Stoppard. (Guildernstern and Rosencrantz)

Valla canyon from scenic outlook, Ilica waterfalls with lichen covered trees and the wild animals of Kure Mountains National park, including a newcomer to the area.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

More photos from Western Black Sea Part II

Western Black sea Part II Ulus, Pinarbasi

Western black Sea Part II Pinarbasi

A full stomach and the use of the facilities after a few compulsory/complementary cups of tea, prepared us for the short drive towards Pinarbasi, where we had reserved by phone, after discovering a quaint village mansion on the net for 30TL each B&B.

Ulus small town was a nice surprise. I guess all the places we visit are nice surprises, but this time we hit the market day. We took photos of women walking one way with empty bags, but forgot to photograph others coming back with full ones. Trying to park the car, we discovered a very nice modern building and found out that it was the public library. Went in, introduced ourselves to the director and his wife, both with degrees in librarianship, chatted for half hour or so, met the kindergarten and elementary school kids using the reading rooms, and were disappointed that there were no youth or adults.

The roads so far and from Ulus to Pinarbasi were fine. Eser’s carpal tunnel and tennis elbow which she has nurtured since we started driving in the countryside from clutching the armrests and door handles of the car with fear did not get a boost. Neither was she given a chance to fall asleep because of the curves.

We knew we were either in or skirting the Kure National Park. She wanted to take some side roads towards a few hills which I refused to call mountains. I argued that the hills were too insignificant to belong in a Nature Park. And, I was the driver at the time.

Came to Pinarbasi, another nice small town, parked in the town square to find a spare charger for my mobile phone which Eser had forgotten to pack J. And we met the Mayor’s cousin who sort of half ran, half rolled towards us, asking if he could help and telling us that he had a barbers shop if we needed a hair cut. He took us to a shop which he said would have the charger for sure. Fortunately the shopkeeper could give us directions for the only other shop of the type at the other end of the square.

However, the mayor’s cousin was good for a topic of conversation on later days, when we wanted to get away from stronger feelings between husband and wife. He also gave us the correct directions to Pasa Konagi, our B&B, “Straight down that road for 300 meters).

This is where I paste my Pasa Konagi Review:

Pasa Konagi is a quaint 100-200 year old wooden village mansion renovated to operate as an eight room hotel, in the small town of Pinarbasi, in Kastamonu province. The rooms are upstairs, around a large central space which can be used for meetings. Downstairs, there is again a large central room and also large kitchen and dining room. As in traditional Anatolian homes, you have to remove your shoes before you can go up to the second floor. (And as in traditional Anatolian living, we left our shoes there and always found them as they were, in the morning, possibly because ours were the worst looking ones.)

There is a nice garden on the back with a small waterfall on its borders, and picnic seating and children’s playground.. I believe that they serve the breakfast outside when weather permits. When we were there in April, we had to keep the wood-burning stove going in our bedroom all night long. It was fun in a way, but either because of inexperience, or because it’s the way of these stoves, every time I added logs, it would get very hot, I would take most of my clothes off, my wife would look at me suspiciously, and after an hour, I would wake up feeling cold and put some clothes on. At that stage, my wife would also wake up, look at me in a different way and curl up under double blankets, with another sigh. A further hour down, the freeze would start setting, and I would have to get up to rekindle the stove and put more logs in, and my wife would wake up again and seeing me with the logs, start eyeing the door. (She never told me what went on in her mind that night. I think we will go back again just so that I can find out.)

The price was 30TL per person including a sumptuous breakfast. Ahmet Bey, the manager, was also the cook, and would give us dinner alternatives and prepare what was requested.
The salad, the rice, and the Turkish pot dishes would be in bowls and pots and you would go and get as much as you liked, and he would toast bread and barbecue sucuk (Turkish pepperoni like spicy sausages), etc.

The major sights of Ilica waterfalls/Horla Canyon, the Valla Canyon and the three caves are not very close. So it is possible that he would prepare a picnic lunch for those who requested it.

Another quaint feature of the rooms is that the bathroom and tiny showers are in closets. (Maybe that is why the acronym WC was coined.). As if that was not enough, in some of the rooms, the only way you can access the facilities is by climbing a divan and stepping down again after opening the small door. Unfortunately the shower has no curtain and is in a tight space together with the toilet or the sink.

In spite of the stove and the bathroom facilities we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. We made friends with the large extended family (who almost thought that this was the family long house) and a young couple.
. The young husband was a psychiatrist and tried to prescribe certain medicines to me and to my wife, after I mistakenly mentioned the troubled sleep of the previous night.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

More From Western Black Sea

The kid on the slide is my wife Eser. She has the ability to be any age at any time she wishes, thus making her the perfect team member on travels for sharing everything you see, experience and feel.

The location is 'Saklibahce Restaurant' about 15 kilometers out of Bartin, on the way to Ulus and Kastamonu. One of the best kebaps we had anywhere.


This shop window in Bartin gave us the idea of finding similar shops at all the small towns we visited on this trip to compose a portfolio to send to our daughter in

Chicago, for her upcoming wedding in Fall 2009. Knowing us well, she was not upset when she discovered what we were doing, although she had some difficulty explaining to her fiancee, why we were doing this, and why it was funny. Now that he knows us better, he laughs also at jokes like this. Whether he actually appreciates them is another point.