7 Reasons Why Maybe You’re Meant to be a Nomad


So, I’m home studying for my upcoming exams, and I can’t help getting distracted (=during my breaks!) with my AirBnB app, looking at places in different cities I want to visit. I plan imaginary trips and somehow, life seems to reply by sending all sorts of travel posts on my Facebook Feed with news of a different nomad to be reading about!

travel 2

Here are 7 Reasons Why Maybe You’re Just Meant To Be A Nomad!!

 

1. Looking for Places to Visit on Google just gives you a HIGH!

Now this one is a given!! Those posts about places you MUST visit and the “unexplored” make you daydream about finally going there. You’ve pinned so many websites on your Bucket List and you still have a knack for unearthing more. When you google a random place and start reading, you invariably jump to the Images, what you can explore, what are the “to-see” and already find yourself making plans in the future!

2. The Fear of Exploring New Places is Replaced by a Rush of Seeing New Sights for the FIRST TIME!

Travel is scary. Let’s face it, this is a daunting world. But that doesn’t scare you. You see those images and imagine what it would be like walking there and the fear is replaced by the unrestrained excitement of actually experiencing that place, or breathing that air and immediately capturing a piece for your memories. You’ve always wanted to head off alone, maybe talk to locals, capture those brilliant candid shots and just keep on saying “WOW” at every step!

3. The Allure of The Waiting World overshadows..well, just about everything!

There are 193 countries in the world, 7 continents, so many cities, towns, villages, breathtaking, stunning, gorgeous places just waiting for you. That thought itself overshadows the fact that, maybe you’re supposed to study for an exam, or get a job or… Oh well, I don’t know, my thoughts were overshadowed by Random Travel Plan#199

DSC004684. You’re a Foodie Waiting to have a Go at ALL the food you can get your hands on!

No I don’t mean you eat and eat till you burst! I mean you read about a different type of cuisine over what you eat, or what the local eatery serves and you find exotic cuisines that you want to try. What do people in Armenia eat? I’ve always wanted to try food cooked in a Tangine! And how about trying that French food you’ve always been scared to sample? Or maybe sauntering over to Laos and having wine with dried snake in it? If you’re eager, the world is a food heaven just waiting for you to come and sample it out!

5. You dream of visiting places people have not heard of!

Are places like Galapagos Islands, Nicaragua, Sicily, Mozambique and so many other places calling out to you? Have you a goal of going to 50 National Parks in your country before 50? Those places you never even knew existed till you looked them over a map? And when you tell people about your plans to visit, they just look flabbergasted because they never imagined there were places like this?

6. You’re more optimistic about finally making it to a place to do the costing

Costs are the single largest deterrent to travel across the world. But sometimes the optimism which comes from visiting a place and discovering a new culture, making new friends, making memories and being on your own, overshadows the economic costs that dent your balance. Maybe you’ve got a publisher waiting to hear your travails or you have a popular blog which you can monetise. But when you travel, a cost, in itself, is the least of your concerns!

7. You’re always up for a sudden, unplanned triptravel

Whenever someone plans a trip, you don’t need a second chance or a reminder. You’re in, with all the details worked out, or…well maybe not!! You probably are the one who initiates the idea and the place. Your group is always in flux with new people joining in and becoming a part of a large circle of friends you call “travel buddies”

 

There!! I’ve got all my excitement out here!! Also my first list and number post!! I’m sure some of these points are so not what nomads might think characterise them, but what the who!! You can have more people happy about travel in the world!!

 

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow


I admit it.

image

A Blow Dry :p

I admit. I am a tad self obsessed. I love ny hair. It is long to shoulder length, sometimes growing all the way to my waist.  And I love it. The waves, the curls, the frizz. I love it.

I did the unthinkable a few days back. I got them chopped to a Bob cut to help a friend get certified. And I’m crying about it. I feel bald almost.

I know it’s just hair and it’ll grow back. Sure it will. But why do I feel so empty now that the initial euphoria has worn out and the blow dry has left me?

I’ve never been someone with a huge sense of self esteem. Andbi have loved my hair without judgment. I love the feeling of running my fingers through them or having anyone run their fingers through my hair. Just seeing them wave naturally gave me such a high.

If I haven’t probably turned off all readers by sounding too batty, I do have a point.

We tend to stay with what we love. Our blankets, those cosy slippers, our favorite toys, clothes, that favorite pen you must have or that dish you always eat first thing your birthday. Often we pick convenices and stick to restricting our sense of beauty within that.

I am GUILTY OF THIS. CHARGED CONVICTED AND HANGED!!

I decided this year to use it to explore beauty. To find myself and to find all the beauty within me. I even started making notes and writing. And here I was horridly set back when I got a hair cut done.

Your hair or eyes or feet or handwriting or washboard abs NEVER define you. They cloathe you. They give you something to smile about. Would I trade them for money? Maybe not. Would I trade them for a hug, a loving cuddle every night, a good night kiss or a good morning embrace? Without a doubt.

I notice we prioritise so many things ahead of simple stuff. Beautiful stuff. Ahead of life. And we miss out on so much. Maybe I missed out on so many years of discovering my inner beauty and listening to my inner voice while I obsessed over how beautiful my hair looked.

I had hair yesterday.  It is gone (well almost) today. And I am left with no other choice but to look at myself and remind me of the beauty in me. Or the beauty of life turning out maybe how I imagined it years back. Or how that comforted feeling that wrapped you when you knew something was JIST RIGHT! And that things were about to get better.

You have beauty today. It could be gone tomorrow.  What will stay with you, is what you are deep within. Make a conscious effort to give that little you some TLC. Everyday.

I part with these random words I strung about now,

Hair Today. Gone Tomorrow

Life Today. Gone Tomorrow

Ethereal and Beautiful You.

Right in your heart , Forever So!

Part 2: Beautiful Me, Beautiful You

Miniaturk brings alive what lies in ruins today- The Grecian Connection


Day 3:12th April:

 

Greece has always been a country which has had a tremendous influence on the world, be it as an integral part of ancient civilisations, or as an extended empire that ruled half the world, or be it through their economic attrocities (=:P)!!

The Grecian Empire stretched all across the southern part of Europe from Spain, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Armenia and a host of countries above the Black Sea!!

This note is dedicated to the Greeks who’ve lived beyond their times and left an indelible mark on the Turkish Landscapes. Although these lie in ruins today, they’ve been recreated for everyone to see.

The expanse of the Greek civilisation and their level of sophistication brought a sense of peace and order into the nomadic Turkish way of life.

These are the Greek Monuments that MINIATURK has recreated for you, me and everyone to see 😀

 

Library of Celsus in Ephesus: (Photo 2-5)

The library, which was constructed in the years 115-117 during the Roman period, is located at Ephesus (Efes) near Selçuk in the Aegean province of Izmir. It is famous for its magnificent facade which appears to consist of two storeys. Examinations of the ruins have revealed that the structure had three storeys. Rolled scriptures were stored in niches in galleries on the upper stor. The reading hall of the library was destroyed by earthquakes in the third century. The facade was then used as the back wall.

 

Temple of Artemis: (Photo 1,6,7)

Built in the ancient city of Ephesus – present-day Efes in the Aegean region of Izmir – the temple dates back to 334-250 B.C. Also known as the Artemision, the temple was numbered among the seven wonders of the world in antiquity. After the first temple was burnt down in 560 B.C., a new temple of the same size but three meters higher than the original was built on the same site. It was the biggest temple of the Hellenic period. It was demolished by Goths in 262 A.D. and was never restored.

 

Halicarnassus Mausoleum: (Photo 9,11)

The mausoleum which dated back to the 4th century B.C. was one of the seven wonders of the world in antiquity. The wife of Persian governor Mausolus (from whom we derive the word ‘mausoleum’) had it built in Halicarnassus – now Bodrum – in memory of her husband. The construction reflected an effort to challenge the magnificence of the Egyptian pyramids. When the wife of the governor was also buried there, the sarcophagus section was locked with a special mechanism.

 

The Altar of Zeus in Pergamon: (Photo 10,12)

It was built between 197-159 B.C in the ancient city of Pergamon in what is now the Bergama district of Izmir province. The monument, which describes the victories of the king of Pergamon and is dedicated to Zeus and Athena, contains representations of all the Greek gods. With its Ionian style columns, the altar has the most magnificent examples of reliefs from Hellenistic sculpture and, in particular, from the Bergama school of sculpture. It was discovered by German excavators in 1871 and taken to Berlin.

 

Aspendos Theatre(Photo 13):

The theater built in the 2nd century A.D. near present-day Antalya is the most important structure of the ancient city of Aspendos, which was located 6 km to the east of Serik. It was constructed during the reign of Emperor Antonius Pius. The city was founded by the Argos civilisation as a river port in 5th century B.C. The theater still remains today with its stage intact. An interesting fact is that stone tablets were used for tickets here.

These replicas and just the way they were kept made me feel so grateful that i was able to see great pieces of work and get an insight into ancient civilisations (=which has been a fav to read in those dusty ol’ History books 😉

But there is more of Miniaturk to come, this was only half the story, You’ve yet to see Istanbul, Ottoman relics outside Turkey, The Victory and War Museum and get an insight into the great Mustafa Kemal Pasha Ataturk, the revolutionalry who changed a nation and its thinking!!!

Stay Tuned

,

 

Picture Perfect Anatolia- Miniaturk Journey Continues


dAY 3: 12th April

Alright so we are back to Miniaturk, the park where every Turkish Monument is replicated for everyone to see.

 Q: How will you know which monument is in front of you and what it represents?

 A: (Ref Photo 9) The black box in the photo depicts an info box. On the Miniaturk ticket there is a bar code. A red beam catches the code and there is an audio that tells the person about the monument. This infomedia is available in English, Turkish, German and i guess a host of other languages.

Now a mention of some of the monuments which belong to the Anatolian region

??? What is Anatolia?

Anatolia also Asia Minor, is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey. The region is bounded by the Black Sea to the north, Georgia to the northeast, the Armenian Highland to the east, Mesopotamia to the southeast, the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Aegean Sea to the west. Anatolia has been home to many civilizations throughout history, such as the Hittites, Phrygians, Lydians, Persians, Greeks, Assyrians, Armenians, Romans, Georgians, Anatolian Seljuks and Ottomans. As a result, Anatolia has been of interest to archaeologists.

Alright i’ll skim the gyaaani kisse and bring on some famous monuments 😀 😀

Amasya’s Yalıboyu Houses: (Photos 3 and 4)

These houses on the banks of Yeşilırmak River in Amasya were built at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. One of their most noteworthy features is that they were the first prefabricated houses in Anatolia. Indeed, some of them were put up within as little as one day. These houses in Amasya are fine examples of Anatolian Turkish civilian architecture.

The thing to notice is the detail with which the houses have been constructed. Also notice the 2 kids riding a bike and the detail. (=To be mentioned a lot henceforth!!!)

Mount Nemrut Ruins: (Photo 17 and 18)

Remains of the Commagene Kingdom are to found at an altitude of 2206 meters on Mount Nemrut near the town of Kahta in Adıyaman. Dating back to 80 B.C. – 72 A.D., these ruins are referred to as the 8th wonder of the world. On the eastern side of the open-air temple on Mount Nemrut are eight scuptured statues of gods, measuring in length from 8-10 meters, placed on wooden pedestals. These ancient remains were rediscovered by a German engineer in 1881. The site which was restored in 1984 was declared a National Heritage.

Again supreme attention to the detail. wonderfully done.

There are an incredibly large number of monuments,  mosques and artefacts in the Anatolian region and places like Ankara (=BTW the capital of Turkey!!), Izmir, Bursa, Edirne etc.

The other thing i want to talk about is Pamukkale. (=For those who the name doesn’t ring a bell, Pamukkale is the site where Ranbir Kapoor’s song Tu Jaane Na  was shot.)

Pamukkalai

meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, is a natural site in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. The city contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water.

These naturally formed white chalk (travertine) terraces near Denizli are unique in the world. The series of cascaded pools are formed as a spring at 35°C with a high content of dissolved calcium bubbles up and leaves deposits behind it. It is known as Pamukkale, literally cotton castles. It is said that the water that flows through these is good for heart patients (=Not Medically proven, locally accepted)

We were stunned at this display. The amount of editing i’ve had to do is a testimony to Turkey’s rich heritage and the efforts put into this display..!!!! MUST SEE!!!

The next section deals with Greek Monuments scattered around Turkey which have fallen into ruins but have been reconstructed for everyone to see.

Coming Up: A Grecian Urn..Monuments by the Dozen

 

Ziraat Bankasi, Ankara

 

Ishak Pasha Sarayi

 

Stone Houses in Mardin

 

Detail Man!!

 

Bursa’s Ulu Camii (Great Mosque)

 

 

First Turkish War Boat

 

Seamen

 

Ankara’s War Monument

 

 

INFO Dibba

 

The Railway Line

 

A Cable Car

 

Exquisite

 

Precision and Accuracy

 

 

OMG

 

Mount Nemrut Ruins

 

Attention to the Detail

 

Erzurum’s Double-Minareted Medrese

8 Gods at Mount Nemrut

 

One Name TAG

Move Over Beckenscot…Miniatürk is Here..and How!!


Day 3: 12th April 

After the morning chow at Golden Horn (=Same old same old…Meze, yoghurt and eggs with the usual bread with preserves), we decided that on the agenda today was “Miniatürk” 

This place happens to be a little into the Istanbul suburbs (=On the European side of Turkey though) so we had to cab it. We had the reception ask for a cab and drove off along with our armour of woolens and jackets. The Cab driver was a quiet sullen one actually, (=We’re really used to cheery cab guys and pick up persons because we chat a lot with them) and it seemed as he resented driving us till there.

 

Driving through the Istanbul suburbs didn’t present a postcard version of the city. Of course the landscapes and the water along the road made it scenic but the houses were tumbledown and looked a little old.

Houses here are like the ones in the photo..but these houses were a little old, wore signs of occupation for years and had clothes hanging outside..also it was a little congested with a lot of houses packed together.

 

But I don’t mean congestion in the Indian way keeping Mumbai in mind…there were adequate open spaces and trees with beautiful tulips planted. It was a sight to watch but not as beautiful as the buildings are in the Historical Peninsula, the place where we were staying.

Right back to Miniatürk..

 

Miniatürk covers a total area of 60,000 square meters. Its model area is 15,000 sqm, making Miniaturk the world’s largest miniature park in respect to its model area. Miniaturk also boasts 40,000 sqm of open space, 3,500 sqm of covered area, 2,000 sqm of pools and waterways, and a parking lot with a capacity of 500 vehicles.     

 

The park contains 120 models done in 1/25th scale. 57 of the structures are from Istanbul, 51 are from Anatolia, and 12 are from the Ottoman territories that today lie outside of Turkey. Additional space was reserved for potential future models. The infrastructure was built taking into consideration the needs of potential additions. Therefore, Miniaturk will continue growing, modeling, in a sense, planned urbanization.

 

The park hosts icons of many cultures and civilizations. Models vary from the Hagia Sophia to Selimiye, from Rumeli Fortress to Galata Tower, from Safranbolu Houses to the Sumela Monastry, from Qubbat As-Sakhrah to the ruins of Mount Nemrut. In addition, some works that have not survived into the present, such as the Temple of Artemis, the Halicarnassus Mausoleum and Ajyad Castle, were recreated.

 

Special attention was paid to include every civilization that ruled in and around Anatolia and left their marks. Miniaturk traces a 3000-year history from Antiquity to Byzantium, from Seljuks to the Ottoman Empire and into the present day.

 

Aiming to create a fairy tale atmosphere, the Miniaturk project is divided into three main sections. The sections are Anatolia, Istanbul and the former Ottoman territories. The sections are separated from one another by small landscape designs that ensure continuity by guiding visitors throughout their visit.

(=Ok Enough Gyan!!)

 

Miniaturk is a vast expanse of land which has been very well planned. Also it shows a glimpse of Turkey (=Rightlu summed up as Turkey on My Plate), you do get a rush tour of Turkey as a country and its shift through the times.

This is an excellent place to bring children and make them proud of their heritage. Like I said, it’s a MASTERPIECE.

This keeps monuments and history alive even though the actual may not be in a good condition. And there are no two ways about it, this is a place that has GOT TO BE VISITED.

So we got in after taking an entry pass, and saw about 2-3 groups of school students being led by their teachers to this park. I’m sure if i was someone who went to a school in Istanbul, I’d insist on being taken here.

Now the park is divided into 3 areas,

  1. Anatolia
  2. Istanbul
  3. Turkish/Ottoman Monuments outside Türkiye

I’m going to elaborate about these 3 sections separately so that I do it justice.

But what we did find here is the committed efforts of the Management to make sure that these Representatives are kept in proper condition and are regularly cleaned. Also that repairs are made as and when necessary in phases so that one section of the park is always being maintained. (=A pretty good way of making sure the entire park is functional).

There were people scrubbing these Reps with water and a brush. There was even a provision for drainage of water that’s on top of the monument so that water does not accumulate. You just have to appreciate the amount of effort that has been put into making these Representative Models and in taking care of them.

 

Don’t worry about this being boring and just being models on display. Your ticket to Miniatürk has a barcode that will be read by an instrument in front of the model which will give out some information about the Representative Model in either Türkish or English. That is decided by the barcode and the ticket (=You’re supposed to specify that you prefer English at the Gate!! I think other languages are also available like German but i’m not certain)

 

There is also a restaurant on the premises that serves good food (=Unlimited bread here as well!!) We did take a lunch break half way into the Anatolian region and ordered some Pizza, Soup, Pasta and a Curry. One was a Meal Special. And they don’t make their pasta from scratch its a thawed one on your plate for all the anti-frozen brigade. But the food is good and reasonable.

Along with Miniatürk, there is also a Victory Muzesii & Crystal Muzesii (=Muzessi-Museum).

The Victory Museum is dedicated to the Turkish war of Independence. During the First World War, Turkey fought with Germany and also overthrew the Caliphate to be established as a Republic on October 29th, 1923 led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha Atatürk.

The Crystal Museum is a place where a few famous landmarks of Turkey are showcased in crystal using light and special display.

So as you can see, Miniatürk is a fascinating place to visit if you’re cut short of time.

But DO spend your time slowly savouring the Representatives and appreciating the history. Also the Representatives are very realistically done with beautiful carvings replicated. Take your time with your camera and have a snack to keep your power going.

Coming Up: Anatolian Region, Istanbul, Victory Museum, Crystal Museum

Stay Tuned

Oh Wait…I forgot about the suicidal lizard. There are train tracks running through the entire park (=I didn’t see the train though) So at one place in the section for Ottoman Monuments out of Turkey, there was a lizard near the tracks, Maybe he wanted to get on the train, maybe he was suicidal..Point is, his wish remained unfulfilled. .. 😀 😀

Istanbul Suburbs (Rep pic only)

 

 

 

Airport being cleaned

 

Camera Shy

 

Mustafa Kemal Pasha Ataturk

 

Miniaturk

Panorama 1

Trick photography

Expansive

Keeping it clean

Conservation

Guardian of the Mini-Monument

Conservation Workers

Cleaning in Progress

A suicidal lizard

No Luck!!

Miniaturk

Under the Bridge – Galata Dinner


Day 2: 11th April Post 7pm

 

We had decided to explore the Galata Tower which gave us a panoramic view of Istanbul. (=Like I said, Istanbul on a High 😉) After the crowded panoramic view, we had a chance to explore the city during its best..Night!!! The sunset in Istanbul is colourful and inspiring. It is a symbol of a setting sun bidding goodbye to all the symbols of Turkey and to usher in the shadows that light up corners of the city (=Getting rather poetic aren’t I?)

Musings:

Istanbul has a way of charming even the deepest cynic. It is a city that mixes Tradition with Modernism and while the life is pretty fast paced, it is gentle enough to offer you a pillow of support and welcoming arms. Watching the sun fade into the distant horizon, you could almost imperceptibly note that life had paused, that you could catch your breath and that some good rest was on your way. You will never be friendless in Istanbul. The people here, perhaps nurtured by the subtle interactions with life and its pace, will always lend you a patient ear..It is this charm that makes Istanbul and Turkey a destination that MUST be visited.

By the time we descended from the Tower (=And had a pee break) the winds had started to blow and it was getting cold. We did have a break to fortify ourselves with some chocolate and strawberry milk. We decided not to go on the same way we came and took an alternate route. Along the alternate route, we clicked pictures with some awesome artistic display albeit in form of graffiti..(Photo 4)

 

Then along we walked the same way we came but on the other side of the Galata Bridge. The Fishers had packed their stuff and had left. We took a turn that would bring us to Level -1 of the Galata Bridge where the restaurants were located. There were many restaurants each essentially serving the same, sea bass and other fish of the Black Sea. Of course they had other options which were chicken and lamb and more so beef. (=P.S If you’re a vegetarian please stay off this lane…the smell itself will choke you!!)

 

There was a restaurant that was playing peppy rock music.. (=Turkish Music is Happening…Turkish Artists have very good songs) but i don’t know we didn’t stop there, we walked ahead up to a place called ‘GalataKupa Diner’ and had the owner come out and give us a sales talk on his restaurant and we decided to go there.

Psst: You should hear the things they say to make you come to the restaurant and they goodies that are up for grabs…”Sir, come here,, look at my Menu..this is the Speciality…Where u from ..oh India!! Great…Come into my restaurant,,I give you Apple Cai, I give you this salad free..Oh you try that, I’ll give you that free with some Cut Fruits on the House…Yes..yes come in here” (:P)

Back to the dinner…We sat close to the window, had the heater toast us, listened to some Turkish tracks, drank Apple Tea and just about lazed…:P

Our Menu was

1.Chicken Curry (=Like a Kashmiri curry with yoghurt)

2.A green salad  (=On the House 😀 )

3.A Prawn, Macaroni and Cheese casserole

4. A Fish Platter (=Different types of fish fried or baked or roasted…unless you love the intricate flavours of bland fish..you stay away,,veggies n vegans DO NOT approach this place at all)

5.All the bread we could eat

6.Apple and Cherry Tea

7.Cut Fruits on the House

8.Some Turkish Locums (=Gel delights ;))

All in all we had a nice time. The waiter who took our order was joshing that i was the”Boss” because i was the one keeping tabs on the money.

Post dinner, we walked slowly across the bridge. This was the first time we were out late in any foreign city without a car. Istanbul is a place where people rightfully retire to their homes when it is dark and because of the subtle and impressive lighting to the monuments, the streets look eerie and dark. Of course you have cars and the tram passing by but essentially at 9 which was when we returned, it’s quite an empty place. (=Not what us Mumbaikars are used to….we see people around at any time..)

When we came to face the Bosphorus, we could see the Bosphorus Bridge (=One of the longest suspension bridges in the world) It was lit up along the suspensions and the light kept changing in colour. Also there were people setting up a ‘Night Market’ of sorts. There were coats, books, toys and some other things.

But i have got to say you won’t belive how sunsaan this place can get late nights. So we got on quickly towards our hotel. We stopped at a local convenience store and bought water, ayran and munchies for the next day, passed through the Ozler lane, met George Clooney and then finally back to 202 and 203.

That finally concludes Day 2 (=Phew!!!)

Coming Up: Ottoman Traditions, Miniaturk…Beckenscot is ancient now,Istiklal Caddesi

Stay Tuned

 

 

An Istanbul Sunset

 

One of the by-lanes

 

The Tower at Night

 

4 Floating Idiots

 

Dinner!!

Exploring Istanbul – Galata Bridge


Day 2: 11th April

After the huge and well documented (=:P :P) Half Day Tour (=spanning over 4 notes!!) we made our way back to the room (=202 and 203 of course)….We decided to explore Istanbul on a high (=:P No alcohol, just from a tower called Galata Tower!)

When we had gone on the Half Day Tour, we’d seen the Galata Bridge and the Bosphorus. But to get to the Galata Tower was a tricky job and so we consulted the Reception at the ‘Golden Horn’. They had a map of Istanbul where the Manager pointed out the route to my dad. We also purchased a copy of the map. (=Good to have in Istanbul with all the lanes and by lanes)

Istanbul is also famous for its trams. The main road which bordered the Topkapi Palace had a tram line. Every 5 minutes a tram would pass to or fro. To go to the Galata Bridge, we had to pass through a side lane (=Remember the lane we had to go thru to reach Ozler??) So one of those lanes got us to the main road. A little further on the main road brought us to the Istanbul Gare. Its a beautiful building designed by Mustafa Hamdi Pasha. The “Orient Express” made famous by Agatha Christie’s namesake thriller, terminates here.

We finally took a chance and purchased some ‘Kestane’ (=Shingada in India) which the seller roasts on coals. (=What kind of a seller was he, hauling some kestane to the coals :P)

The road opens up to the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus is a strait that separates the European and Asian side of Turkey.It is the world’s most narrow strait and is also the most navigated (=Istanbul’s waters are pretty busy you know). It connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. 

Most of Turkey happens to be located in Asia but the Turks prefer not to be associated with the “poorer” continent. Whereas Europe constantly snubs its “poorer” fan.

Yea so back to the Bosphorus. Since there is a lot of activity on the European side, there is a constant exchange of traffic both people and cars (Photo1). It was fun to see a boat bring in cars from the Asian side.

Since this opened to the sea, it was quite windy. There were carts at a small distance of each other selling Kestane, Corn, Samit (=Bread with sesame). There were also stalls selling coffee(=Kahve to you), fish sandwiches in which the fish was grilled with mustard oil it smelt but i really can’t be sure. Anyway it didnt look very tasty so we skipped that.

But we did succumb to buying some Corn. I’m warning you, NEVER buy corn from Istanbul, the ones on the road. The corn tastes rubbery and totally kills the mood. (=Of course we had a fun time trying to force some seagulls to eat it, guess they knew it was bad too!!)

We walked along the road until we reached the Galata Bridge. Now this is an important bridge because

1. A tram way runs through it

2. It connects the Historical Peninsula with the ‘Suburbs’ and Work Places at Istanbul.

3.The underside of the bridge is filled with restaurants speciality ‘SeaFood’

Also we had to constantly duck because of the whiffs of cigarette smoke (=They all Smoke!!). Also If your ‘Road Crossing’ Instincts come alive and you want to explore the other side of the bridge then I’d advise you not to put a foot out of the pavement because you would certainly be run over by a car or a tram. There is a subway which can be used to cross.

It seems that the bridge was built 5 times and at one point during the reign of Emperor Justinian toll was also collected from the people. It is one of the few bridges in the world to carry electrified rail tracks. All daily city tours in Istanbul include this bridge as it is the passageway to the Old City of Constantinople.

I Spy…: When we started walking across the bridge, we noticed a peculiar sight. There seemed to be a lot of people fishing.(Photo 7) Literally fishing, baiting with some small fry or worms, they reeled in their lines waiting for the fish to be caught. Some of them had freezers and other manual equipment that could guarantee you a solid entertainment.

It was quite fascinating to watch. The people just stood there waiting for the fish to fall for the bait and looked around at all the activity around them. A nice way to spend some time i’d say chilling out in the sun (=Not very harsh at that time of the year)

Also you’ve got to carry a sweater or a muffler of sorts because it gets very windy and chilly as the evening progresses.

So we walked ahead joking about everything under the sun, looking at the people who were fishing. When we crossed the bridge, we saw this vendor selling “Churos”. Now when we’d visited California back in 2001 Churos were fried bread dipped lavishly in cinnamon sugar (=Yummm). So we got some of that labouring under the impression that it was the same thing. But, it turned out to be fried bread in sugar syrup making it like a crispy ‘Gulab Jamun’ (=:P). It was enjoyable nonetheless.

Now to find our way to the Galata Tower, we’d have to cross the road which was no mean job let me tell you. But luckily for us there were people who crossed like how everyone crosses back home (=Phew, lucky break) so we did manage to get across. After that, a few directions and an uphill road were the only things that kept us from reaching there.

There are many lanes and by-lanes that oft lead to the same place so you can be sure that the route you took would lead you somewhere close to where you want to be. The road that we took to go to Galata Tower was an uphill one with a lot of climbing en route. There were a series of steps first and then a curved road lined with some apartments and Couture Clothes Shops. We were quite out of breath when we finally reached the Tower.

The lane we took opened out to a square where 4 paths met and where the tower was situated. This tower would give a panoramic view of the whole city. (=Timings 9-7, also has a restaurant..very haute unless you have the cards to pay)

It seems the Tower at one point was crumbling but speedy restoration led to the Tower being in its present state. When we reached the square, we had a seat on a bench and munched on some chocolates (=Power Boosters!!) while we watched some dogs play.

We did explore the Tower and saw a super Panoramic view of the city but that makes yet another story 😀 😀

 

Stay Tuned

 

Cars shipped across the Bosphorus

 

Kestane!!

 

Yucky Corn!!

 

TP

 

Bosphorus

 

New Mosque!

 

Fishing off the Bridge

 

The Bosphorus

 

The Other Side

 

A Panorama

 

The Tower

Matis and Kaleens- Carpets everywhere n Walk upto the Grand Bazaar


Day 2: 11th April 2011

After the Blue Mosque, we were taken to a carpet showroom. The exteriors of the Blue Mosque which open to the Hagia Sophia are decorated with beautiful gardens and benches for people to sit and watch. There were also lots of crows there, (=Like the country, the birds…India is characterised by Malnutrition and so the crows here are thin and have large eyes…watch a crow tom..Turkish crows are like stuffed toys-Photo 2)

So we all sat into our vehicle (=Its a huge bus actually) and drove down to a Carpet showroom called ‘Matis’. There we had a demonstration about different types of carpets and actually saw how the weaving was done. Some of the carpets were really beautiful.

Gyani Kisse shuru: (=Hindi for Factual Yak Yak Begins)

Indian/Chinese Carpets= Single Knot Carpets

Turkish Carpets = Double Knotted Carpets (=Or so they claim…how are we to determine)

Carpets have a base layer of strings and have other strings (=Usually coloured) woven in them.

1. Wool base with wool strings

2.Wool base with cotton strings

3. Cotton base with cotton strings

4.Cotton base with wool strings

5.Silk base with silk strings

The worth of a carpet is determined by the number of knots in a square inch. It can go upto even 225 knots which is as elaborate as it gets and will take a worker about 1.5 to 2 years. So your carpet is less about the material and more about the labour.

Imp Note: A lot of small carpet dealers are unscrupulous and will sell u carpets MADE IN CHINA. They are NOT AUTHENTIC Turkish ‘Kilims’ or Carpets. They will sweet talk you (=Turks are good at that not to mention they are good looking)

The colour used in Turkish carpets especially woollen and cotton ones are natural dyes and the silk is synthetic(=Iska Raaz aage ke notes me khulega :P)

So depending upon the vegetation of the area the colour of the carpets used to differ. Like in Southern Anatolia, tobacco is grown so the people used to make greenish yellow carpets using tobacco leaves. Also some other tribes used roots to make carpets vivid reds and greens. The intricacy depends upon the skill of the weaver and also on the material used.

Woollen carpets are not so intricate as the threads are thick and weaving knots is easy. Cotton can be intricately woven but not as much as silk. Some silk carpets are really exquisite you’d dread to even walk on them for fear of spoiling them.

Now the prices they quoted were astronomical so we simply ignored them as we sipped on some Apple Cai.

Later we saw the showroom for jewellery, diamonds, gold and other semi precious stones, corals and other stones like Amethysts, Turquoise, Onyx etc. Really expensive stuff not for a clumsy one like me…so I kept away..

Discovery: Indian weddings are oftenr famous for the traditional, heavy worked dress of the bride. But that is not the case in Turkey.

In Turkey, the bride can wear a Christian type white dress for the wedding ceremony itself. Turkey has made Islam and its followers so very liberal and open minded that there are no restrictions on them. I was thoroughly impressed.

After the outing at Matis, we got a photo with Aziz the guide (=Long time back 3 notes ago i’d said his name was Aziz gosh i write too much these days!!)

We went into a small basement like shopping place (=basement like coz, there were steps that went down n the shopping mart was there!! hence basement) By the way our first such shop in Istanbul, and picked up some munchies (=chocolate, biscuits, knick-knacks)

Then with directions from people, we walked to the ‘Grand Bazaar’, the biggest Bazaar for anything and everything you need (=Not at the best prices and certainly not all authentic)

We read a sign that a small store was selling stamps so we inquired but we found out they were stamps for regular post and were not attractive (=Philately is a dying art and hobby indeed)

Also the walk upto the Grand Bazaar is lined up with big shops like how a shopping boulevard of a small scale in London would look like. The cobbled roads make a beautiful pattern with benches and  plants. Also cigarette butts.

If i forgot to mention, 90% of Turkey smokes, man or woman.  So cigarette smoke everywhere and the butts littering the street. But mind you that is the only thing littering their streets!! No plastic or paper or other garbage.

On the way to Grand Bazaar we were again told about a restaurant in some corner and saw a lot of people smoking.

The path leading to the Grand Bazaar is a cobbled one and is done up beautifully (Photo 8).

Grand Bazaar is supposed to be a huge complex with more than 4000 shops. There is a main lane from the entrance and there are also many by-lanes with more shops. Its like a huge maze. It even has its own map. It is well known for its jewellery, hand-painted ceramics, carpets, embroideries, spices and antique shops. Many of the stalls in the bazaar are grouped by type of goods, with special areas for leather, gold jewellery and the like.

So the next few hours were spent in looking at the shops and a hunt for some good leather jackets (=Pretty!!) that we could even reasonably be expected to open in Mumbai. Also we looked around for magnets, t-shirts and other stuff that we could really buy. (=I mean the leather jackets, a little weird but t-shirts is cool..)

There is also a section selling Turkish Antiques for those who have the taste and those who can dip into their pockets. There were bronze statues, old clocks and watches, meerschaum pipes (=A type of stone which is found mostly in Turkey, is a fascinating subject)

Lunch was an affair we had to work on because there were restaurants in the lanes basically offering the same stuff at shocking prices so we kept the hunt.

We passed through a lot of shops selling Apple Tea (=As a powder not the drink) and Turkish Lamps. The Lamps are beautifully done and would have looked beautiful in any house but for the fact that we live in a virtual dust bowl..There wouldn’t be a day we’d not spent cleaning it.

We got ourselves some ‘Istanbul’ T-shirts and then found the perfect place for lunch (Photo 9). After a sumptuous meal (=Rice n Lamb+aubergine curry, a Döner, some rice with chicken kebaps and some pasta!) we made our way home. There were also shops that were selling gold and jewellery which is sold by weight and the current price of the euro and gold. Also there were good chunky necklaces that one can  see at Colaba Causeway 😛

It was a rainy Istanbul that greeted us when we came out of the Grand Bazaar and walked our way to the hotel. We met an Indian (=A businessman from Jaipur who frequents for business) so that was nice. And we were back to our room after finishing a massive half day tour!!!

Coming Up Next: Exploring Istanbul-Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, A Fishy Affair!!

Stay Tuned

Outside the Blue Mosque

Cutey crows

Just a random pic

The first place i saw the Indian Flag

Carpet weaving

Shops leading to the Grand Bazaar

Entrance to the Grand Bazaar

Cobbled Roads

Lunch!!

Blue..bLue..Blue a Mosque lies ahead- Inside Sultanahmet Camii


Day 2: 11th April 2011.

After the Hippodrome, we were ushered into (=Rather like sheep don’t you think, being directed from one place to another??)

Next Stop: Sultanahmet Camii / Blue Mosque

Fact: It is known as Blue Mosque because of the blue Iznik tiles that decorate its interior. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice.

While this Mosque is in active use for prayer, it is also a tourist attraction. While entering the mosque, everyone has to remove their shoes but there are plastic bags provided to the people to keep their shoes in. Also there are brochures about Islam so people get a bird’s eye view of the religion.

The people are quite strict about removing shoes, you pass through checking even after you’ve removed them to be doubly sure. This is really a testimony to how proud the Turks are of their traditions, What must Be Done Must Be Done. Period. (Photo 5)

We did see quite a few firangs (=Oops forgive the Indian way of saying it, a lot of whites would be very racist) complaining about this but the Turks didnt give a damn. You want to come, off go your shoes sir!!

The Mosque faces the Ayasofya on one side and also the Hippodrome. Meaning the Mosque is sandwiched between the Ayasofya and the Hippodrome.

Psst:  Ayasofya was built by the Grand Architect Sinan (=who built more than 450 monuments in Turkey talk about Monopoly!!) , Sultan Ahmad II while commissioning the Blue Mosque appointed Sinan’s student to build the mosque.

Try as he might, he could not build a mosque as big as the Ayasofya. So instead of building a Mosque with 4 minarets which was in case a mosque was Imperial and used for Ceremonies, he built in 6 Minarets…(=Duh Student wants to outgrow the teacher,,,any problem with that??)

At its lower levels and at every pier, the interior of the mosque is lined with more than 20,000 handmade ceramic tiles, made at Iznik (the ancient Nicaea) in more than fifty different tulip designs. The tiles at lower levels are traditional in design, while at gallery level their design becomes flamboyant with representations of flowers, fruit and cypresses.

(=Long live Wikipedia>>!!)

Info Snippets: IZNIK TILES

The name comes from a region in Turkey (also called Anatolia). Iznik tiles are hand painted on quartz (=A semi precious mineral)  Each tile takes about 2-3 months and is painted with natural dyes and glazed with egg white and fired in a kiln. It is a dying art in Turkey now and there are organisations that are taking efforts to ensure that the art continues.

The tiles on the back balcony wall are recycled tiles from the harem in the Topkapı Palace, when it was damaged by fire in 1574.

The most delicate part of the Mosque were the Stained glass windows (Photo 8). Also the lamps that they used were oil lamps and there was a system to divert the smoke into a separate room to be used as calligraphic ink (=Smart!!). So there is not a black speck on the ceiling save for that painted on the tiles.

Also a thing about the carpets:

The whole mosque is carpeted (Photo 4) and there are lines on it some darker than the other. The 2 dark red lines denote the place that a person takes when they bend down in prayer (=Remember how Muslims bend down in prayer on the floor, this is so that when the Mosque is full, your bum doesn’t get squashed in someone’s face!!)

So we were given about half an hour to explore the Mosque and reassemble outside. During this time we went and clicked pictures of the Mosque (=And each other lol)

We also clicked a picture with a fellow tourist, Jeremy who had opted for the full day tour.

Jeremy is from Philadelphia but now stays in Basel, Switzerland. Also he’s been to Mumbai (=and been in the traffic!!) He was even here during the world cup. So it was nice to interact with him.

After looking around in wonder at the mosque, we left.

Ooh!!: Even though this was a mosque, there was nobody who was wearing a veil over their heads, Although we had put our hoods on as a mark of respect. Turkey is a secular country where religion and politics are separate.

This means that even though 90% of Turkish population is Muslim, only about 20-30% are practicing Muslims.  This means that even religion is left to the choice of the person. (=We never got a choice to practice, we just had to!!)

So as we explored Turkey we came to know a lot about the country and also about Islam as a religion and how free and open it can be.

That wraps up the Blue Mosque. After the blue mosque we moved on to a carpet showroom and discovered a lot more things.

Coming Up: Matis and Kaleens…Outer sights, Historical Peninsula

Stay Tuned

Exteriors of the Mosque

The Inner Dome

Inner Lights

Red Carpets

Chappals here n there

A column with Iznik tiles

Calligraphy on the ceiling

Delicate stained glass windows

Beauty!!

The family

Yerebatin Sarnici or Yerebatin Saray1


Yerebatin Sarnici or Yerebatin Saray1

After exploring ‘Hagia Sophia’ or ‘Aya Sophia’ or ‘St Sophia’ (=Too many names) we came out to the Sultanahmet Square where the two most beautiful monuments of Istanbul, The Blue Mosque (=Sultanahment Camii) and the Aya Sophia face each other.

As we left the Aya Sophia, we looked in awe at the huge mosque ahead of us. Now since my sister and my dad had done some reading, they knew it was the Blue Mosque but I didn’t, so I was amazed while I clicked pictures of the cobbled paths and the many roadside sellers.

 

The small and cute stands there sell 3 things

  1. Corn (=Yuck!! No Way, Indian ones are much better)
  2. Simit (=type of bread with sesame/til on it with or without a cheese filling)
  3. Kestane or Chestnuts roasted
  4. Cinnamon cakes (=Spicy and not so sweet)

 

So we helped ourselves to some Simit with cheese and soaked in the atmosphere.

This time is the best to visit Turkey, just off the winter which is quite harsh in the interiors and just before the heat wave hits across Turkey. The weather is extremely pleasant and enjoyable with temperatures between 8-16 degree C during the day and from5-10 degree C at night.

 

There was a trio that was performing in the Sultanahmet Square as a part of the  Istanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi (=I’m sorry I don’t know the exact translation Büyük means big and şehir is city)

At that point it really struck me that Istanbul integrates art into its very fibre. There is an appreciation for all forms of art here be it with history, relics and frescos or be it with music, paint and any other form of expression.

I guess we really don’t see much of that in India with not much inclination to appreciation of art barring those who actually practice.

We also saw the tram lines in Istanbul for the first time.

Following which we went to the Cistern.

Let me brief you a little about how the Cisterns and Aqueducts came into being.

An Ottoman Building using an Aqueduct

The Romans constructed numerous aqueducts to serve any large city in their empire, as well as many small towns and industrial sites. The city of Rome had the largest concentration of aqueducts, with water being supplied by eleven aqueducts constructed over a period of about 500 years. They served drinking water and supplied the numerous baths and fountains in the city, as well as finally being emptied into the sewers, where the once-used gray water performed their last function in removing waste matter. (=Long live Wikipedia)

Now the aqueducts were not limited only to Rome. With the spread of the Roman Empire, the aqueducts and Cisterns spread to different states such as Bulgaria,  Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Macedonia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Spain. Which sows the effect the Roman Empire has had over the world.

Also they made Cisterns which were made to catch rainwater and to store it. Cisterns are distinguished from wells because of the waterproof lining that Cisterns have. There aren’t many Cisterns found today.

This Cistern is very famous for the two heads of Medusa that adorn 2 of the pillars

Fact: The Cistern was built in the 6th Century by the orders of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It is 9 m high with 12 rows of 28 columns

Fable Speak: There are many stories about Medusa. The most common one says that she had a face so ugly that people who saw her would be repulsed and would turn to stone.

This is why her head appears at 2 columns to ward off evil

The second fable talks about why her hair was turned to stone. It says she was the fairest maiden of the times and once she lay with Poseidon, the king of the seas, Goddess Athena was enraged and so cursed her transforming her beautiful hair to snakes. (=Poor her, jealous goddess)

But there is no accurate record about what really happened to Medusa although she remains an evergreen part of history

Anyway back to the Cistern. The Cistern has been constructed in such a manner that even though it is below the ground, there is fresh air through ventilation shafts constantly.

This too like other museums has an entrance fee (=10 TL or € 6) Most of the people come to see the Medusa’s heads positioned in the 2 pillars.

In one pillar the head of Medusa is facing sideways and in 1 pillar it is upside down. There are many stories as to why these were positioned there and only there and in these positions not looking straight forward. But because there are no accurate records, until a time machine is invented, we can only speculate.

The water even though old was clean. There were places where people had thrown in coins. There is a Roman legend that if you throw a coin i the Trevi’s Fountain,Rome, Italy that you will come back again!! (I should throw many coins there then!!)

Even though this was constructed in the 6th century, it has been preserved very well today with adequate signs for tourists with information. There are also plastic sheets put over the arches that need to be repaired.

Musings: (=How much i think!! My brain should be banned)

I often wonder why we as a country with significant scientific advancement can never manage to set funds aside or use it for the repair, maintenance and restoration of our national wealth. I guess with the decades of ingrained mindset that our sole purpose is to achieve a growth figure at all costs, we’ve let national wealth, arts and culture die a horrendous death, leaving the world deprived of all that India and its rich heritage has to offer.

So after we were finished with the Basilica Cistern, we saw some magnets and postcards (=Everyone sells magnets and postcard) and we went to have Doner Kebaps in the same place we’d seen before.

We had some Doner (=Turkish franky with no oil or sauce), Coffee (=Expresso Leggerimo with Arabica and other South American Varieties). This coffee had a few chocolates and coffee beans coated with chocolate as a side dish. Also we tasted apple chai (=Tea in Turkish is also called as Chai). It was the yummiest and they serve it in such small and cute cups with tiny tea spoons. There is sugar added and cubes also on the side.

After the long afternoon, we had a chilled out session in Room 203 accounting for the expenses (=My job 😛 :P). After which there was the dilemma of deciding the place where we could go out for dinner (=Remember there was lunch at Ozler this is still Day 1). We made a trip to the terrace, (=Our hotel to see if the restaurant was worth going to).

There was a balconey where you could go and sit in the cool evening air and smoke a Narghile (=Pronounced Nar-ghee-Le)

But the menu was very limited. You had to order certain sets like a full meal with an entree, a salad, a meat dish and some dessert. There was no two ways about it. But there prices were quoted in Euros (=Oh No!!) So we decided to skip it and go out exploring. The person who had helped us out in the Convenience store while buying Turkish Delights recommended a restaurant called ‘Balkan’ and gave us directions. We had a little bit of searching to do and it was in a lane that was being repaired (=Hey its not only India where there are dug up roads!!)

Balkan is a Self Service Restaurant meaning- U pick the dish from a limited range, The person serves, You pay per plate for what you order. And it turned out to be our cheapest meal of the whole journey (=:P :P).

So we had 2 chicken gravys, 2 plates of rice, 2 Ayrans, 2 Rice puddings (=Ah yes…yummy!!! All that sweet mixture with caramelized sugar on top!!!! :P) and the food was good.

  • Turns out in Turkey these types of restaurants are ‘Lowest of the Low’ where you have nobody to serve you, you pick and carry. But the place was clean, the food was good and inexpensive and the quantity was better than the other restaurants that waited on you hand and foot.

After our dinner, we made a trip to “Diva Discount Mart” which was our faithful cost saving provider where we picked up some Ayran, Water and Flavoured Milk for the tour ahead.

So thus concludes the 3 part ‘Day 1 in Istanbul’

 

Keep Tuned for further notes!!!

 

Basilica Cistern with its pillars

 

Fishes and Coins

 

Medusa upside down