Sunday, 22 February 2015

An Old Aborted Attempt To Meet A New Friend

There is a pub at Balo Street, off Istiklal in Istanbul called James Joyce. It serves Irish and/or British visitors or expats in Istanbul and anyone else who drops in. Probably has live broadcasts of British sports, some live music and definitely fish & chips besides the expected quaff.

Some years ago, before I disgustedly left Trip Advisor, I had arranged to meet another forumite at this pub. This is the story of the aborted mission which I managed to find from the annals of history :

Entering Istiklal Street on 22 Feb. 2015 to Relive That Day

The first attempt to meet Blue Peter was a total fiasco. This being Saturday, we could only park rather far away. The weather seemed nice, and i trusted the garage attendant, who said there would not be rain, so did not take our umbrella. The area around the James Joyce was lively and fun with an average 22-25 age group of people having the time of their lives, although, strangely, some of whom were only playing backgammon and sipping their teas. 

And Here's the James Joyce

We bumped through them to the James Joyce, paid our 20TL each admission which qualified for a 50cc Efes each. The music inside was OK but kept on getting louder. The only elderly gentleman was i think a Brit 75-85, emaciated, not bald and with a 30-35 year old homely girl. This was good for our marriage , because it made both of us thankful for what we had.

Balo Street Looks Dull This Sunday Noon

We had our beers with some chips, stayed till 10"45 and left into a terrible downpour. The fun kids had disappeared and the umbrella sellers were nowhere in sight. Eser accused me of listening to the garage attendant who was obviously a nincompoop. i bowed my head in shame and walked into the first shop, feeling my red neck getting wet from the rain water accumulating on the awnings and waiting for you to get under it. It turned out that the shop had some umbrellas for 14 TL which either did not stay open or would not close. We got one of the will not close kind and a sort of a ski cap for 25 for me which helped me lose some weight because of the sweating at 14 degree Centigrade weather.
So, we did not meet Blue Peter but managed to boost the slack Turkish economy, somewhat.
However, i will vouch for the James Joyce. The music was good. Even the 80 year old patron was tapping his good foot, the chips were very slightly soggy, and we even saw some people dancing at a dark corner. At least we thought they were dancing.
The way back to the car was uneventful. The chestnut sellers were not around. Many other pedestrians had 5TL umbrellas which were sold around the corner and which could be opened and closed at will.
The car was there with the keys inside. We drove back, having paid at the cashier, parked the car and discovered that our umbrella was not in the car. No, not the one that does not close. That one, we still have with us, to remember Blue Peter by.

Sunday, 21 September 2014



Drove to Sansarak village, about 20 Kilo from Nicaea, where we hoped to see a waterfall and a canyon. About 7 Kilo from the village we came across a sign saying 1 kilo to canyon and a narrow barely noticeable path between dense forest. We walked downwards until my defense mechanism told me that it was time to stop and that I may not otherwise be able to make it back . Asked Eser if she would push on for some five more minutes to see if she could see a bit of the canyon and especially the flowing water which we could hear.

She walked; and I was alone. The stick I had picked up at the start of our walk seemed rather thin and rotten. Eser did not even have that. I shouted at her and could hear her calling back. told her to get back, but there was no response. This should not be the season when boar or bear would be dangerous but I would not know what or who else could be in heat. I kept on yelling, raising my voice while worrying about attracting unnecessary attention of other creatures two or four footed.

She must have turned another corner and heard; so she she shouted that possibly another 100 meters or so of steep pathway may get her closer to the water that she could hear better. I responded that that was a bad omen, hearing water when there probably was none, and that she should get back to help find her elderly husband a better walking stick with which he could also protect her gallantly.

She came back, we walked uphill to the car which surprisingly was still there, drew through the village which looked like a scene from "The Walking Dead" and came to the fields and fields and fields of tomatoes. We bought about 10 kilos of tomatoes, picking some ourselves for about $6 and later 2 kilos of green beans for $2.

Took photographs of the lake and Gurle mountain to the South as well as Iznik city blindly  due to the malicious light making it impossible to see the screen on my camera and her I-phone.
In any case here is the photographic summary of our trip :

There seemed to be some flowers on the balcony of this house next to the satellite dish but no sign of any residents.

This is the village of Sansarak. The hen was the first inhabitant we saw. There was still some possibility of seeing a Turkish version of The Walking Dead, we discussed in hushed voices.

We left the village while considering buying this prime property. The sign said there was another house, a stable or barn and land also.

We really were not prepared for a trek or hike. It was to be just a scouting mission, but the path looked very inviting and safe(!) There was no telephone reception. I was wearing loose walking Merrells without socks and had shorts. We had nothing against insects and bugs, no walking sticks, no whistles against sheep dogs, no knowledge of habits of wild boars or bear. But we had each other (Hah!)

Eser blends in or the forest starts changing colour to match her outfit.

Interesting tree. Pleasant path. We are doing well.

I asked Eser to take this photograph as proof of my desire and ability to go on this dangerous mission.
Note that I was not yet holding the hefty stick I found later.

This looked fine but to me the darkness after the first twenty yards or so looked like a false trail, possibly leading to the webs of some large spiders or a dug trap with sharp spikes.
Naturally we did not take this route and instead took the easier looking one which probably lead nowhere. But we were careful and conscious of any change in the air, wind, sound or smell of the area
This was not easy, because Eser's perfume was overpowering and she was as delectable as ever while I was puffing like a steam engine.

We finally admit defeat and start the miserable uphill climb back. Neither of us have the strength or the will to take any more photographs of the lane that seemed to have been turned into a treacherous path of slippery rotten leaves, tricky fir cones and evil roots reaching out for air or to trap the innocent hiker.

What is the red thing on the balcony on the left? Is that a warning sign?
Is the animal walking towards us a werewolf?

Was this a side or top of the canyon that we could not reach, or a mirage we saw looking back from the Northeast entrance to the village.

Back at the village from the aborted mission. A goat welcomes us and allays our fears of meeting any walking dead.

Strange tid bits for the village goats in such a green area. Must be an acquired taste.

Tomatoes picked and being crated for transport to wholesalers. The kids were also eating them.

One of many tomato fields we see en route

Eser suddenly asks me to stop car, rushes out and throws herself directly into a field of tomatoes.

Eser checks out a ripe tomato

The first of ten kilograms of tomatoes picked.

On the way back.
Did the Iznik lake once lead to the Sea?

The mausoleum of the 900 year old possibly mythical war heroe protecting the city or believers in the supernatural

Gurle Mountain, south of the lake, where we once got stuck in deep mud with our AWD SUV
The memory which stopped us taking a wet looking narrow logger road this time with our 2WD.

Finally, Darka (where our home is one of 460) is visible on the right of the Iznik-Yenisehir-Bursa highway, the wooded area where also reside our stray cats, guard kangal dog, ducks and rabbits and the evening visitor porcupine. 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Trip to Mesopotamian Gaziantep, Urfa and environs.

This is a reprint of a Fodor's lounge thread which was tagged "Food and Wine" and was enjoyed and digested as the title would imply.

I have added some photographs and a piece I had written about Rum Kale elsewhere.

I will also post reviews of some of the restaurants and Zeugma mosaic museum with its photographs.

Ray P. is a very close friend of our beloved concert pianist cousin, Husnu Onaran, who passed away six months before this trip. We arranged for Ray to visit Turkey for the first time in his life because our cousin, domiciled in New York did not travel much except to give concerts and had always promised to bring Ray to istanbul.

 It was like a pilgrimage to Ray. We took him to the houses Husnu had lived as a kid and the schools he attended as well as his grave which we had managed with the help of our DD from Chicago who had arranged the transportation from the United states.

We know that Husnu believed he would not linger close to this world, hoping to have reached an elevated stage. But, just in case, someone tells him up there, i hope he will be pleased to know Ray visited not only his old haunts but also one of the World's oldest structures, temple, observation post or whatever.

I, Eser, the trusted wife armed with her red Pentax DSLR and its fearsome lenses, and Ray P, the smiling and deeply caring concert pianist from Connecticut will take off from Taksim, istanbul tomorrow Friday, March 16, 2012 through snow flurries towards flight TK2222 to Gaziantep of almost biblical fame, fraught with the danger of being close to the Syrian border in addition to the high carb, high sugar content food which cannot be denied.

We are in the process of preparing our minds mentally and our digestive organs physically by talking of things and things and eating highly greasy, highly carby, highly tasty food cooked at home with a Moldavian touch based on adulterated Ottoman turkish recipes.
My envy is indescribable. Be awed and have a wonderful experience.
Thank you Sylvia3.

We shall see the Zeugma mosaics in Gaziantep, the two castles, and the ruins of the 1,700BC Hittite city Kargamish of the Epic of Gilgamesh fame.

Saturday or Sunday we shall be in Sanliurfa and surrounding area, visiting the cave of Abraham, the mausoleums of Job and Joshua, the ruins at Harran and of'course, Gobeklitepe.

before i get back to the literary narrative, here are some more useful facts:

Flights by THY cost only about $350 for all three, return, including soft drinks, sandwiches and cake which are free.

The new Hotel Ibis was only about $30/room with A Club card.
A new Mercedes C180 automatic was $100/day unlimited mileage with a THY discount.

we plan to have "Beyran" soup (takes 10 hours to prepare) for breakfast and "katmer" (fried pastry) at different locations. Kebap at Imam Cagdas, Cavusoglu, Ashina, Shirvan.

Will have transfer by Back Up to IST tomorrow morning with cost included in annual membership fees. Only carry-ons.

I will post the factual info on the Turkey forums also and answer standard questions there. The lounge thread will be for the esoteric and the exotic.
You have the red Pentax! Awesome! (Pentax K-5 shooter, here). But seriously, I'm drooling at your photo opportunities. Have a fabulous time.
well, I have no idea what all those things taste like, OC, but I am certainly looking forward to finding out. 

happy travels!
You know, any other time I'd be hung up on the camera... but wow, the trip. 

I've been reading now for some time about Gobekli Tepe after a Nat'l Geographic article and it just captured my imagination. 

I can only imagine seeing the discovery that flipped anthropological wisdom on it's head. Worship and large scale construction may have not been driven by man's movement towards civilization and settlement, but the other way around. Nomads inexplicably called to accomplish something that could only be done collectively, but without the without the previously thought necessary social structure to foment it. 

Anyway.. very exciting. I am so very envious! But do be careful please.
Thanks annhig and clifton.
Woke up 6AM with the realization that I had not checked us in on-line, something I usually blame others for forgetting. Had to turn on the fickle member of the Toshiba clan which I had prepared for the visit to its almost pre-historic ancestors because Ray is trying to work through his jet lag in our PC abode.

Two isle and one window seat reserved near the back hoping it's not a full flight and that they do not put anyone in the middle seats.

Fear of forgetting to pack items of clothing is senseless. I am sure they use underwear in Southeastern Turkey and will let me have access to shops that sell them, in case, even though a TV channel asked Moss Productions to find a new actor to replace me in my TV sitcom debut last month after watching the pilot, telling the production company that I did not look Turkish. 

I hope that the The logical relationships in above sentences are as apparent to the gentle reader as to the writer.

Soon i shall shout, "Hi, Ho...." and off we shall go. ( about three hours or so)
even though a TV channel asked Moss Productions to find a new actor to replace me in my TV sitcom debut last month after watching the pilot, telling the production company that I did not look Turkish. >>

lol - what do you look like then??? how is this real turkish person supposed to look?

Hi, ho indeed.
It is evening, late evening, almost 8PM, in the small Ibis Hotel room which was $50 not $30 per night. Still a bargain when Eser remembered a room we were squeezed in some decades ago at the Berkeshire on Oxford Street, London, where one could not walk around the bed. But then, we had enjoyed the very good quality bed spread and curtains. 

It is incredibly cold outside. i am glad we did not listen to the advice of the concierge and the bell hop and the receptionist, all of whom wished us to walk to Gaziantep castle. We drove and parked, and then walked. And then walked some more. Ray had a woolen hat. Eser had a pashmina. i had nothing. Could not find a single store selling woolens or leather gloves or what not. There was food, hot red peppers, pistacchios, other nuts, more nuts and more pistacchios and silver and copper, lots more copper, some prayer beads, one small shop of textiles.

My mistake was taking refuge from the cold in the textile shop at the entrance to the old bazaar. There were handwoveb silk and cotton things, pieces of cloth with Ikat designs and Hasanbeyli type and Lahouri type and Kutnu type designs and weaves. Beautiful colours at one third the price you could find them in one or two shops at the Grand bazaar or the Spice Bazaar in istanbul. so said the shopkeeper and Eser approved and immediately called Ceylan in Chicago who ordered enough to cover seven tables and many necks and legs above the knees.

My eagle eyes had spotted the famous Imam Cagdas Restaurant on the way to the textile shop and after a futile attempt to find some place to buy a duffel to carry all the spoils of the excursion outside the castle wars (as Eser romanticised about the meaningless charity re the weavers of Gaziantep.)

It was nice and warm inside. The food was nice and warm. The waiter welcomed us warmly and served us in a very warm way. Even the glorious baklava with pistacchios which were the greenest of greens was nicely warm.

The Lahmacun was not the best we had. the special bread with sesame seeds was excellent. The gavurdag salad was good, the spicy hot tomatoe mash was excellent. Among the kebaps we had, Ali Nazik took first place followed by the simit kebap and the vegetable kebap. the kiyma was OK and the shish kebap was not tender enough. but the baklava, Oh!!!!! the baklava .....
Thanks for the report, otherchelebi. It's a fascinating discovery, and I look forward to reading your impressions of it.

For annhig: if you click on otherchelebi's screen name, you will see a photograph. I hope I'm not being presumptuous in guessing that he's the gentleman on the left.
thanks, jahoulih; OC - I couldn't presume to say whether you look like a typical turkish gent or not!! 

whatever the case, the one they pick will not write so entertainingly - I can almost taste that baklava now. 

if you didn't find a duffel bag to carry all that booty, how DID you carry it?
thanks again. We were given jumbo size garbage bags to carry the valuables. interestingly the waiters at Imam cagdas did not bat an eyelash. the duffel or whatever still has not fallen into our grasp at 11:30PM Saturday. Am i hoping for a prehistoric one i can find at this Mesopotamian land?

Going back to Friday morning, I was lost in a day dream involving the famous kurdish singer Aynur and other kurdish women i have met. They all had large smiling eyes which lookeed sadly at one in large bony faces. Eyes and faces, carrying paradoxes as all women's should, thought i at the airport lounge and while walking to the gate.
This is very different from the young girls of the regional basketball team from the Black Sea region which were on the tarmac bus taking all to the 737-400, and some of whom started to chat with us after I made some wise cracks.

They had not heard of Gobeklitepe or Beyran soup which I recommended to them to use to psyche their opponents out because of its garlic content, forgetting that they were playing a local team which would probably pepped up by the aroma.
We had a good turkey and cheese sandich also containing tomato and cucumber slices and lettuce, grilled aubergine salad and a successful banana chocolate mousse given with unlimited soft drinks and tea/coffee on the 100 minute flight.

we met a stoic sitting at the first row of economy who received Eser's help to squeeze with great difficulty his carry-on into the overhead bin. I commented, after watching the painstaking effort with interest, that the plane would probably be already on its return flight to istanbul by the time the owner managed to get his case out of the overhead bin. He just spread his hands and said, "It would not kill me."

Our Avis rental was quick and drove well. The directions the people at the counter gave were not as good and the map they managed to find for us from another rental car agency had been marked with strange symbols and undecipherable routes and comments.

Driving into a largish totally unplanned city from which direction you do not know, where you cannot see any street names or signs can lead to frayed nerves. Losing your belief in the general visibility of structures like antique city fortresses on hills and football stadiums may easily lead you to lose any confidence you may have had in yourself and in your abilities of observation.

Stadiums should look like stadiums, and there should be policemen and just regular pedestrians stationed at critical points on city routes to respond to questions of travelers driving towards the unknown. Gaziantep had too few of those, and for the initial 45 minutes of our advancingly more hopeless search the few potential direction givers whom we spotted quickly slid back into the shadows before we could accost them. Finally we caught one, and then two more and soon we were at our hotel with enough time to go up to the castle and my former post.

This leaves me with the task of narrating the details of the unnecessary tours we took in and outside the city, the marvelous places we saw, the toothless and thumbless boatman who was on facebook and other characters one must always meet on memorable travels who and which we were fated to experience on Saturday, March 17th, 2012.
I will not beleive you left the apartment until I see pictures. And I expect you to stand in the water like the namesake Ibis hotel, it with its long thin legs and bow shaped beak, which charged you an additional $20 when they saw your face.

And I hope Eser and Ray have a fabulous time. You too.

It all sounds wonderful. Hope everyone is well as your reports indicate.
Adu, they actually give a discount to ibis look alikes. unfortunately non of us qualified.
Will send you a photo taken near Abraham's lake at Urfa wearing a Southeastern headdress called poshou, to prove the sink holes I have reached.

Saturday's cold misery and today's fall into harsh reality in the desert-like landscape and then the mysries compounded while observing milling humanity need to be narrated later when the muse(s) decide to treat me better and when the upper thighs can work harder to support the wobbly torso.

Suffice to say that there was an absence of historic or pre-historic gods at Gobeklitepe. However, there was one wise man, father of eight who advised Eser and a second one, myself, who advised the oldest son of the sage of Gobeklitepe.

The sage talked about his wife, not with love and pride, but in a very matter of fact tone, just telling it as it is and as it should be. He said she woke up at 5AM, cleaned and brushed the three cows, prepared breakfast for all, sent the little ones to school, milked the cows, cleaned the stable and stored the dung for fertilizer and/or fuel, prepared lunch, fed the little ones, took her husband's lunch to Gobeklitepe site where he guides and sells books and a few trinkets, did some laundry some days, cleaned house others and once a week baked enough bread for the whole week, then dinner and.he did not mention of other duties but the eight children must be enough testimony.

How much Eser learned from this sincere tale, I could not tell. She did not argue and she did not sneer at me when i continued to nod my head in awe and admiration at such strength of character and stamina in a woman.

My advice to his son who was guiding us at the site and turning a blind eye when we picked up a few small pieces of flint which may have been used to polish or carve 12 thousand years ago, paled in comparison to the years of wisdom his father imparted. I talked of love and marriage and how he should do his best to avoid an arranged marriage to a cousin as they seem to have done in their village for as far back as they can remember. Then we met two of his younger brothers
, 8 and 10 I guess, and we discussed aggression and how it can backfire and an unfair teacher will somehow end up being punished by himself if not by someone else. Asked if the teacher had warts or bunions, and when he said he did not know, I said, "bet he has them, even if they are not in the open, because of all the nastiness, because warts and sometimes things like corns of the feet or bunions could be self inflicted when the person stupidly wear an uncomfortable shoe or does not wash properly."

have you thought of writing a book, OC?
With the human interest out of the way to a certain extent, i shall get down to a description of the site and the mysteries i was successful in solving, mysteries which have alluded the misguided archeologists for so many years. I climbed the mound and recieved the word and will soon start spreading it here.

However, there seem to be many who are afraid to show up on this thread and to receive this wisdom. And i say unto them, "Flock here my brethren so that I may impart these mysteries to those of you who will understand them."

Before all that, I must also mention Belkis, the mother of five who also grows and sells black rose plants at half-sunken Halfeti and has a miraculus touch only if her husband would allow it.

Then there is the story of the 52 middle aged women who continuously eat sunflower seeds on the lawns near Abraham's chamber and lake in the belief that they will regain their virginity if they keep this up until the ground around them is covered in seven piles of skins, 7 inches high. We saw them and witnessed one of them almost burrying one of her children under a pile of sunflower seed skins.

These were the novice sunflower seed eaters at lower elevations of Abraham's Park. 

OC has written a book, but only with his permission, will I reveal its name, since I am not sure he wants his real name known.
thanks Adu.

Annhig, I am preparing a travel book but do not know how I can have it published in the united states or United Kingdom. 

If anyone has any suggestions, I will be eternally (possibly until the book is published) thankful.

here's the link to the book :

here's the link to my Amazon Reviews :

I guess i will leave the mysteries out of the narrative and just give the bare minimum facts, in view of the tremendous interest.

On Saturday, we visited Duluk/Doliche. Unfortunately the temple was in darkness due to a power cut 

There are no signs for Duluk anywhere and very few people know about it. We spent a whole hour looking for it. There is some info on the ruins on the web.

 Later we drove to Halfeti and took a boat up the Birecik Dam lake and the Euphrates River:

 finding directions to Halfeti through Birecik town
Birecik Castle is somewhere up there! But what about that doorway?

Driving Down to old Halfeti

Tourist boats still enjoying Winter hibernation

This was the route towards Zeugma and the dam, we guessed.

A misplaced photo of Old Halfeti, partially submerged

Here's the story of the trip :
Look, if you are there on a cold Spring or Autumn day, do not listen to your partner and go all the way to Birecik and then ask, "How do we get to Rumkale?" Have faith in your memory and your previous reading of the map before you started driving from Gaziantep towards Urfa and take the Nizip exit, or maybe even better, drive directly towards adiyaman and then check the map again.

There was a 30 miles/hr wind. It was 35F and close to 0 C but sunny, we were comfortable and warm in the Merceded C with leather seats Avis had bestowed upon us at a reasonable price. Everything looked good because we had just eaten katmer at Orkide pastry shop for breakfast and Ray had a doggy bag of it also. So we drove to Birecik, through the city, photographed the castle from a distance, enjoyed a short chat with the locals and then moved towards the town of Halfeti which should have taken us close to Rum Fortress, possibly via a bridge on the Euphrates River.

To cut the verbosity short :
-the route to Halfeti was long
-half of old halfeti was under the dam waters
-new halfeti is one of the ugliest habitations we had the misfortune to see.

 to Rum Kalesi. A long trip but worth it.

Could not tell if the green lawn on left was natural or landscaping.
It was too hard and too cold to climb

Are those recent buildings used by Euphrates Pirates?

This seemed to be some sort of entrance to the mysteries that our boatman steered away

-what remains of old Halfeti was nice but very cold.and had a few starving (so we thought) boatmen with only a jacket to wear.
-The first boatmen to reach us told us that his boat was fast and the trip to Rum and back would take less than an hour.
- You see, there were not even any roads from Halfeti further North, let alone a bridge across.
- My wife is a Cancerian and loves the water.
I am stupidly in love with my wife even after 34 years of marriage.
-Ray is a gentlement or is afraid to comment.
- So we froze for 90 minutes, half against the wind on an almost all open motorboat.
-When we thought that something sweet will help us to recover our strength, we found out that Ray had actually demolished the remains of the Katmer when he was sheltering on the side of the boatman.
- We did not have the strength and the ability to move frozen muscles to get off the boat and climb up to Rum Fortress, So No touching at all, you see.

- What was worse, just one hundres meters away from Rum was a boat landing with at least eight or ten similar boats with similarly starving boatmen waiting for other scantily clad freezing tourists, who could have reached them much easier and been able to see the same sight with only a 20 minute boat ride and for much less and possibly even climbed up to the fortress.

On Sunday we visited the Zeugma mosaic museum, a requirement for all visitors and then drove to Urfa where we visited Gobeklitepe and then Abraham's lake.

(The photographs and information will be on another post.)

Gobeklitepe had other mysteries than were told at the better known youtube presentations like how come only a smallish section of the land was not covered with a thick layer of volcanic or lava rock so that the ancients could build their temples there and then cover them and if the lava came after the temples were built how come it did not cover the area of the temples?
There so much of Turkey we have not seen and what we did see was spectacular (excpet for sitting across the table from Other.)

Thanks for telling us about a part of the world, few Americans and others have seen.

"He said she woke up at 5AM, cleaned and brushed the three cows, prepared breakfast for all, sent the little ones to school, milked the cows, cleaned the stable and stored the dung for fertilizer and/or fuel, prepared lunch, fed the little ones, took her husband's lunch to Gobeklitepe site where he guides and sells books and a few trinkets, did some laundry some days, cleaned house others and once a week baked enough bread for the whole week, then dinner and .....he did not mention of other duties but the eight children must be enough testimony."
----------------------I was amazed....and appalled. 

How interesting and amazing you are, otherc! And now I start googling the places and the foods. Beginning with Gaziantep which Wiki describes it as the oldest city in the world. Incredible trip!

Here are the photos of interesting and amazing OC and Ray in Kurdish headwear :

And the blind fish of Abraham were our witnesses of having visited Urfa :