Sunday, 3 January 2016

Photographs from Venice Trip

This is how I saw it
Arriving from airport on water taxi. It is cold & damp; looks rather unfriendly

This is how Eser saw it:

There was wine and pasta and pizza
There were also canals and gondolas
There were pigeons
There were no cats

We saw paintings and old buildings
And we bought a painting from an old man

I do not know if the body armor in the museum had seats,
But I had to be satisfied with make believe ones.

Unable to walk more and unable to find a real place to sit,
this is how I felt.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

An Escape from Turkish Chaos to Everyday Venice

It was too good a chance to miss: $110/person return full fare tickets to Venice from istanbul.

I had been there twice more, in 1967 as an almost backpacker with enough time to walk about four hours before catching the train to Milano. I have no memory of anything other than the Grand Canal and the train station. I probably would have remembered the girls of Venice if I had seen any.

Strangely enough I did not see any young women worth a second glance when I was in Murano checking on some chandeliers with an architect and the owner's wife for the new (at the time) Ritz Carlton in istanbul and then a few hours at and around San Marco square with the owner and his team, before being taken to a Board meeting of another company in Trieste.

This time around, there may have been some worthy women but I was with DW and either could not take my eyes off her (even after 38 years of marriage) or I was under tight scrutiny and had a short leash.

On the other hand, Venice was the best this time around. The cold weather did not disturb either of us even when we found that our room temperature was competing with the 40 F outside emotionally charged climate. So, I crawled under the measly cover with socks and a cashmere sweater over my pajamas, and DW left for a further walk around Ca' Gottardi to discover beads and such while the room heated up to the more acceptable 60 F. 

Actually, the second day we managed to hit 67 in the room.

We arrived at about Noon and while gawking around trying to figure out whether to find the Number 5 bus or take a sea based route. Another Turkish couple approached us and offered to share a sea taxi. Unfortunately, they took control and the price was fixed before I could negotiate. It was 85 Euro for each party to their hotel.

The main problem was that, although the ride gave us some photogray opportunities and we enjoyed the foggy view with overcast skies, the very long walk to the water taxi with a terribly disturbing knot inside my sock just over my third toe made the trip excruciatingly painful. Naturally, I blamed DW for placing it there and she said, It was not significant enough to start a war with Russia.

Arriving at the large, rusted, locked iron gate of the hotel with evidently slippery steps leading to it was not the most favorable first impression of our hotel. However, the child in me started immediately to make up a story with witches, golems, slimy things gettin up the canal at night and that the door would let us through and then lock itself after we entered a damp dungeon. 

The taxi driver rang the bell, a number of times to no avail. DW asked me if we would have to pay extra for standing there all that time. While I was saying that we had already over-paid, the taxi driver called the number written above the door bell and a young man, not at all looking strange or dangerous, appeared and led us into the 'damp dungeon' I had visualized, smiling all the time, and jumping over certain objects which could not have been skulls.

Thursday, 27 August 2015


To Karine to Cnidos with a brief visit to Magnesia, ending in Phrygia

 otherchelebi on Apr 17, 11 at 12:05pm

My wife and I will take of April 22, 2011 Thursday morning with the 7:30AM Yenikapi-Mudanya ferry and continue to Izmir to use a free night at the new Swissotel and then continue to Karine, next to the bird sanctuary at the delta of the Great Menderes river.

We have no other hotel reservations, but are hoping to find some decent B&Bs in the area and then push off to Datca peninsula to possibly stay at Hayitbuku. later we will drive through Aphrodisias to Afyon and then to Eskisehir for Phrygian sites, if we can do all this in about eight days.

Eser hopes to swim and take photos. I hope to add to my visual memory, and think of funny things to write. She will force me to eat less and walk more. I will try to see more signs of archaic ruins. We will make some new acquaintances and, perchance, friends.

Our Subaru forester AWD is gone. We now have a Passat SW and thus we are limited in terms of the roads we can take, but not the adventures.

We have the Yenikapi-Bursa ferry tickets car+driver+passenger=102TL on-line. We also have reserved at Ege Palas instead of Swissotel in Izmir because Eser's classmate at the Restaurant Owner Manager certificate program, the son of the owner of this hotel arranged for a 10Euro discount !!! (We had a 50% discount at sSwissotel but over the rack rate which still made it more than 30Euros over Ege Palas) And we get a seaview room.

the major problem will be waking up early enough to make the 7:30AM ferry. I just know that Eser will make me play our version of double deck two-handed pinochle since we have seats facing each other across from a table on the ferry. I will still be half asleep. She will cheat and say that she beat me afterwards, "as always!!!" I made the mistake of teaching gin rummy to her when we were married 33 years ago and have refused to play her the last thirty years. Reminds me of a John Collier short story. and I just do not wish  to lose my fingers.

This type of writing does not sell. I have stopped submitting to travel pages of newspapers. There is no reason for me to impose a sense of humor served with a twist of lemon peel, obtuse language or immemorable literary associations on readers who are looking for quick confirmation of the validity of their past and future travels.

Last minute   investigation, audit and confirmation time.
I was just checking a list of medicine to take, Cozaar, beloc, Glucophage, Cymbalta, aspirin, etc. and other easily forgotten items such as,

- John Freely's books
- duck down pillows
- mosquito repellant
- pinochle playing cards
- chargers for chargeable batteries for cameras

- possibly purchase a portable memory foam pad for my so very spoilt body.

We will pack one medium size and one small case today and add another small one for shoes and toiletteries tomorrow in addition to the laptop, i-pad, cameras, pens and paper, books, as well as some trip rations tomorrow.

Eser is away to Yoga and gym after a cavitation session (which always reminds me of the dentist.) She says that it is all in preparation for the tough trip, which does not quite match her diagnosis of her physical problems as being as a result of the psychological issues of sharing what i call adventures of matter of all colors from white to black to red to yellow to blue. I am enjoying a high of having had five of my grad students for brunch at our house. We may actually meet one at Eskisehir next week if we manage to get there for the Phrygian remains. He will be visiting his parents during the school break.

Bad local and national news. Famous painter knifed by religious zealot at protest gathering had to hail a cab himself to rush to hospital because no one else helped. Candidacy of 12 independents likely to win seats vetoed by Higher Election Counsel on false legality, causing riots and making the coming elections even more suspect. I still have a chest cold. Eser is entering that turning point in a woman's life with anything but meekness, humility or submission. She says. "You go ahead and act humble in my stead!" She may have a point.

I must have whizzed through many of those turning points myself. So many and so fast that i have been feeling dizzy since I discovered that I was a genius over ten years ago after completing an on-line IQ test. So i know that you do not get back to square one because the turns are not always in the same direction.

Our Passat SW has the 1.4TSI engine with enough power for one passenger. When you are two and with baggage, it would be nice to have another 20-30 Horses. Does anyone know if it would be safe for the life of the engine to have a chip installed for that purpose?
·         Report Abuse
Hooray, made appointment for not only the software for 20% engine power increase but also for installation of sprint booster and the F1 air filter, for 11 AM tomorrow. made someone else deliriously happy. I just hope he does not find anything else to sell me when i get there.

aparently the sprint booster cuts down on the turbo gap and the slow response of the VW tiptronic gear box also. I will ask if they have one for installation on the human body as well. -:)

8PM. What a long day. 11AM appt. at bgt superchips. found out that owners were sons of highschool classmate. One Di Caprio and one Brad Pitt. No wonder classmate had been elected school prince in 1963. (Well, they did give me a 10% discount)
The car drives great and got me to my 1PM appointment at neurologist because of dizzyness with some feeling of excess tongue size yesterday. She had treated my mother and daughter also and we had some common friends, so some gossip was in order before she got serious and sent me to some tests and scans.

Little did i know what I was to suffer. A brain scan is bad but a neck scan is the worst for someone with claustrophobia. The cacophony was supplemented with a terrible FM station which filled in while the machine was taking a breather. The panic button in my right hand became my only life line to the real world and the only thought i had was to savour the power that the panic button gave me and how terrible it would be if i found out that it would not work.

25 minutes neck and then 20 minutes cranium and i was a different man. I think I am back to normal now, after three hours, but then everyone thinks he is normal?

I took out things to pack. I then separated them into two, then i added some from one pile to other, then i reversed the order. Eser asked me what goes where and if I really meant that to go there. Just some light banter, which went on while i wrote the previous lines and closed the door.

Then, just now, i found the list i had prepared before. Fortunately the handwriting is atrocious. It is impossible to read except for a few items, so i do not have to change the piles again. I mean, it is not like we are going to Somalia. Neither did the stork bring me with a body form foam travel pad as a free give away on the side.

Must get to the news, to cut down on my enthusiasm for the trip and put more distance between my delicate body and Eser. May write some tomorrow, especially if Nese has successfully activated our Tom Tom GPS and Eser gets busy playing with it instead of killing pigs with her crazy birds or saving our house from the zombie attack on her ipad.

5PM, Izmir, Ege Palas, great sea view room on 16th. Two free drink vouchers for bar on 21st. Car in garage with my toilette case, toothbrush et al. Need a rest after 80 kilometers of unnecessary driving due to inexperience with tomtom or the work of an evil genie.
Cannot and will not blame anyone with any resemblance to a real person.

Currently 24 degree in the shade Celsius, possibly 95 in the sun Fahrenheit. Girls of Izmir more beautiful then I remembered or the previous day's tests have undeclared effects.

Alsancak area and the coast promenade, Kordon, looks very inviting. Some rest, then walk, then food, then buying new toothbrush and paste for the price of having the old ones brought from the car. I wonder if i can locate the used-book store I used to visit 40-50 years ago. If it is as magical as i thought it was at that time, it should be at the same place and looking exactly the same. Wish me luck in my search, and i may even give you its address.

The powers are working against me, playing with my ability to push the wrong keys and totally blocking my post and effectively forcing me to erase it. But i will persevere.

Today is the 4th day of our trip. The following is first day and part of the second. It is past midnight so the next instalments will have to wait.

Carine, to Cnidos, dining and wining without fear
Posted by: otherchelebi on Apr 22, 11 at 10:27pm

The beginning now lies in the murky depths of history, under a different name and possibly in an alternate universe. Suffice to say that we are, Eser and I, both at Ege Palas, 16th floor, sea view, having had a fabulous regional Southeastern Turkish dinner (from Diyarbakir to be exact) at Recep Ustanin Tavasi (since 1978), including the best baklava and semolina halva (gulluoglu, eat your heart out), a glass of Trio wine from pamukkale and excellent service for 100TL including a high tip. We then had our free glasses of Angora wine which surprisingly tasted better than we remembered, possibly due to their being free, and came to our room.

Before dinner, i found the used bookseller i had first discovered over 30 year ago, Dogan Kitabevi, 1440 Sokak, 3/F, Alsancak, bought some old western and rex stout and mickey spillane paperbacks, got my betaserc and vitamin B1, prescribed yesterday to fight my benign vertigo, after six hours of neck, brain and ear tests and the tooth brushes and paste to replace the ones we had left in our larger suitcase which hopefully will still be in the trunk of our car when the valet delivers it to us tomorrow morning.

The car moves beautifully. It was a crazy race to get to he neurologist after i had the power of the engine in my VW Passat SW boosted by 30% in the morning.

Went to bed 2AM, woke up 6AM to catch 7:30AM ferry to Mudanya, tested the new Tomtom GPS rather unsuccessfully. Tomtom or Eser decided that we should, for some reason, take a three hour detour and reach Izmir through Eskisehir, instead of Balikesir.
This lost us about 40 minutes because we had to go 25 miles before we could turn back.

Then we hit the Susurluk outlets..

This stupid machine just erased 8 more lines i had written. It is the evil genie of Toshibas. I know a warning when i receive one, so i will stop for tonight.

Just when i had lost hope in the future of all humankind, someone came to the rescue in my dream. Naturally, like all dreams, it was impossible to remember the dream but even the fact that I could recollect having dreamt told me that it was actually rather stupid of me to sulk and let three days go without having written. after all, these trip reports will be a signicficant part of my next book after some amendments, corrections, censorship, and editing.

So it was a fight against the tomtom navigator and then the laptop, and the sins of the past continued to disaccommodate me through the hard bed, the voices of people next door and at six AM, through the cold wind coming through the open balcony door which found me with no cover, Eser having hogged the whole comforter.

Morning breakfast at Ege Palas, we were joined by the fiance of the daughter of the owner who was Eser's classmate at the restaurant management course this past winter. Well, it turns out that the the owner is actually a friend of mine from the bridge tables. A good chap, an excellent bridge player who won the Tukish national championships more times than i did and represented Turkey in World championships, and the many times disappointed former president of the Altay Football team of Izmir. We had no more discounts, but excellent service. The car was packed and ready for us when we came back from having bought a mouse for Eser's netbook.

We risked our lives on the basis of the sagacity of the Irish broge voice of tomtom (decided that that accent was our preference. And, no, she did not speak Turkish with an Irish accent.) Naturally, we took the busiest route hrough the city and then the dumb machine tried to send us through possibly Selcuk or Ozdere, whereas we could clearly see the "Gumuldur" road sign in front of us. She was frantic of'course, telling us to take the next u-turn in an increasingly agitated voice. We both enjoyed listening to her going crazy and betting on when she would stop.

My highschool classmate's house in Gumuldur was on the slopes of a hill around which he had planted 490 satsuma trees and some avocados. Interestingly enough his hill was the next to one which we had photographed some years back and used in my book to illustrate an essay called "boredom and deppression."

Hikmet, who had unfortunately divorced a few years back had also married about the time we had, and his wife was also 14 years younger, a subject i really do not want to ponder much.

We had some fish at a small roadside restaurant and he paid despite our protests. He had a lovely sheep dog who had befriended him as a puppy just a few months ago and a friendly cat he had brough over from istanbul with whom he shared a beautiful view of the sea and a small island as well as the other side of the Seferihisar bay.

The handsome prince of the prom in our senior year had become a hardy sunburnt fit farmer. Eser was saddened. I was happy for him. What's important is that he was calm and appeared calm although he did talk of some events of the past with regret.

A whole afternoon wasted again due to the meanness of the Toshiba clan memberand their modern gods.

This will be the third time i write this part of the trip, but only after breakfast or possibly our trip to the agora at Pinara which may be close to the huge undiscovered beach with black sand, called aptly, "the Black Sand" beach to the South of Fethiye, where we found ourselves, enjoying watching the yatches and gulets we will never own from our partially complementary suite at the fabulous Ece Saray Hotel.
By the way, Satsumas are mandarines. Apparently Gumuldur's satsumas are the best.
Back to the mundane world of dry coughing, cold rain mixed with two duck lovers who decided that the cat food on our terrace and the water was for them to use the terrace for a few hours for all their needs, unfortunately.

Going back some 5-6 days, we got away from nostagia to a totally new world of large undiscovered lagoon with supposedly 250 species of birds, many wild animals including lynx and a huge porcupine that shot quills at enemies, wild boar, mountain goat, etc. All of them hid from us except for a bird we photographed skipping on the road and some whitish birds far away on the sand dunes of the lagoon. Unfortunately the one bird was the color of the road and the dunies were probably seagulls (non of them named Jonathan)rather than the flamingos or pelicans we were hoping for.

The village of Doganbey had a nice nature museum with a short video, a caretaker who also acted as guide on long hikes and bicycle treks. The museum was originally a hospital before 1924 when this was a Greek village, It later had become a school until the village was evacuated and redeployed a few kilometers away, to protect the cultural heritage in 1966. Currently there are some 30 or so restored houses with some university professors and nature and history lovers living part time.

There was no lodging except for a really poor looking B&B at the new Doganbey, which apparently belonged to the owner of Karina restaurant, just after the lagoon, at the end of the road. They usually have the catch of the day which can be surprisingly good. Very friendly chap. they have no electricity or land telephone lines. There was a large group of locals on a picnic, who had arrived in their own large minibus, with facilities for brewing tea and the accessories for Raki, the oozo or arak like national Turkish alcoholic drink, also called, "lion's milk".

We discussed the feasibility of some lodging at Didyma, or a B&B at Herakleia, and finally i bowed to pressure (applied rather powerfully on my right biceps) and we drove into Gumbet, just past Bodrum.

I will not mention the hotel or the food, or the wine, but we were tired and the bed was not too bad. We had also purchased a goose down pillow at the Susurluk outlets. Eser complained that she was hoping for a bit more luxury and friendlier staff, but i think it would have been a waste of money. Not that she does not deserve the best, but that she clonked out half an hour after our i took my after dinner pills.

That is only the end of the second day.

the third morning, we were up not very bright at all but rather early so that we could make the 9:30AM ferry from Bodrum central to Datca. The drive to Bodrum was uneventful, although we thought some of the streets we took would turn out to be dead ends, and were not happy to be correct.

There was lots of road works, we drove partially on the promenade sidwalk to discover that we had passed the ferry by 50 meters and had to circle two kilometers to get back. Undounted, i braved a oneway road under partial construction and was back at the ferry in a jiffy. We could see the small ferry with one small pick-up in it, and no one around. I parked outside and went for the papers. Eser went the long distance for some coffee. we had our coffee, read some of our papers, and waited till 9:20 for someone to turn up and open the ticket office. Nobody did. I checked once more, and finally read the announcement that the ferry did not run on Sundays.

For some reason, this lead to some changes in our plans. You see, taking this ferry was not in our program anyway, since we did not think we would end up in Bodrum.

Anyway, we decided that it would be nice if we visited the Trip Advisor Destination Expert couple Dudisimo and Attagul in Gocek, about 70 kilometers further South than the turn off to Marmaris and Datca. It was nice to put a face to those active names. They bought us lunch in town and we told them how beautiful their home was. A good exchange.

The weather was cooler than we expected, about 23 degrees C, so we decided that we should make a big change in the plans and go to Fethiye rather than Datca and Cnidos.

we had already missed Magnesia and a number of other antique sites by that time so we figured that Cnidos could wait for us a bit longer.

We drove in to Fethiye, and started looking for Yatch Hotel, which i had read had recently been renovated. Eser was adamant that she deserved to be treated like royalty for having managed to abide by me for over 33 years. We could not park in front of Yatch hotel on the small marina street but further up Ece Saray Hotel which looked like a baby palace had its own large parking lot. We parked there and decided to have a look inside. Inside was pleasing to the eye. we asked to see a room, a nice receptionist sent us with a bell boy to see room 307, which had a small balcony overlooking the many yatches and the bay of Fethiye.

We were given a price of 180TL bed and breakfast for two. We then walked to check yatch hotel where the receptionist was a friendly young man. we saw the room, smaller, view blocked partially by trees, with a price of 150. Gave our thanks and walked back to Ece Saray to chat with the receptionist and tell her that we preferred her smiling face. She could not believe her ears and upgraded us to a suite on the spot. Martha, is a Turkish citizen of Greek origin from an area of Istanbul not far from our home. She was lonely with no one to say "Happy Easter" and i guess we fulfilled her mother/father image. We had many more chats after that during the three nights we stayed at the hotel and liked her very much and not necessarily because of the upgrade or the complimentary bottle of wine and the rich fruit plate.
We suddenly decided to get back home to istanbul this morning. Now i can write easier on my old and trusted PC, rather than use the haunted laptop with a will of its own.

Dinner that night was simple, We totally demolished two lahmacun and one mixed pide, very reasonably priced at Nefis Pide, a taste treat with a lovely location in Paspatur, Fethiye proper but with the handicap of being next to a mosque and thus being totally dry.

It is unfortunate that the prequel to dinner was a visit to a replica watch store, another major win for the proponents of free enterprise and cosumership.

walking that distance of possibly half a mile each way was too much for our aged beyond our years muscles. The mattress was a great deal better than the ones we had experienced previous nights and we both had two goose down pillows each without needing any recourse to the one we had purchased en route.

The day dawned (became 8:30AM) beautifully. Terrific service at open buffet breakfast. I am not joking, there were three waiters competing with each other at bringing more tea and coffee to fill our cups and all of them remembering which one of us preferred which caffeine.

Being the older member of the family (slightly, as you can tell from our profile photo) I got to choose the morning program. Off we went to Tlos, on a hill, watching snow capped mountains in the horizon, and parked quite close to a very friendly well-fed cow and one rooster with his current mate, who were not interested in us as much as the cow was.

There were two sections separated by a fence, a narrow goat path and further up towards a low hill, a ticket booth. We decided that;
a) the ruins on the hill photographed better from a distance, since we had an 18-250 lense which cost us about $500.
b) it was getting late and Eser needed to swim.
c) i was getting hungry and the three cafes all looked rather dismal.

As a result of some very quick decision making, we drove to Olu Deniz of the famed lagoon. The public beach was quite empty and looked fine, although a busybody mayor had had the bean bags removed some weeks earlier, possibly to reduce the amount of smooching on the beach. The lounge chairs, being all sharp corners, sort of takes the fun out of some sorts of activity, if I remember correctly from my younger days.

We assumed wrongly that the paid national park which had both lagoon side and seaside beaches would also be rather empty. We paid our $10, drove in to park, walked possibly 500 meters (although the gatekeeper had told us 300), and first saw that the lagoon beach was packed with screaming children and their screaming chaperones, with no hope (sorry, meant danger) of enough of them drowning within the next few minutes, because the water was very shallow. So, we walked further towards the seaside beach and the food emporium next to it, which looked rather splendid from the distance. Unfortunately, this was as bad or worse. There were only sandwiches in stale bread, soggy fries and a line which refused to move, consisting of playfull young couples who were trying to make up for what they missed doing on the public beach while waiting for their other inedibles.

The only sort-of-semi-clean table i found was in the midst of a large group of tourists from a neighboring country who were each at least twice my size and could communicate in the upper decibel ranges befitting a good Italian tenor, but they were not singing.

Eser immediately left to change and swim, i ate a huge cold stale chicken doner and some soggy fries, sharing it with two picky ducks, one rooster and two hens who were not picky and four feral cats, who were all afraid of the ducks and the rooster.

My wife downloaded 43 photographs of Dogubey village and karine area last night on webshots (esercelebiler) and by this time there were 107 viewers.

This is very disheartening for me.

Gentle reader, do you think i should make a Japanese anime book rather than a regular travel book of our trips? Or just forget about the whole thing and let Eser gloat?

August 28, 2015

It is more than four years later.
I won. Webshots has disappeared with all of the photographs from our travels that Eser claimed as her own. Justice was served. Now I have to find them from various dusty external disks and post them here as my own.
In the process, I shall also continue the story with the last chapter involving the search for illusive Pinara and its discovery with the unbeknownst to them assistance of a young tourist couple whom we followed after climbing a rather unexciting mountain on a wide dirt road.

Doganbey Village and Karine photographs :

These are the photos I could salvage from Eser.

She posted the Tlos, Pinara & Fethiye on her blog :

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 :