Travelling Solo


I had the chance to plan BIG for my parents this year for their 25th Anniversary. I thought of the time that they had spent together and how often they let go of their own time, to help us with our problems. Also, many times the places we finally ended up visiting were those which we picked or that someone else recommended. I realized how much my parents had done for me all these years.

spainFinally I decided on Spain!!! Exotic and Beautiful Spain!! It was some place my mother had been wanting to go for ages!!

But selecting the destination was only half of the pressure. I had to select hotels, check locations and then check the costing. All in the while, this made me want to Travel Solo!!

While with inflation and costing worries on my mind, I turned to freelance work to supplement my income and I was delighted at the turn my life took. I started reading and reviewing books by independent authors and this opened my life to myriad possibilities.

It also made me dream of travelling solo, across different countries. I find many different places to visit every day online and looking at spain 2those photos and reading about a new country, a new city and a new culture only make me feel so excited. It makes me wish I had millions in my bank account so I could travel everyday!

I can’t really define what makes travelling so special for me. I do not enjoy packing (=well who does?) and airplane journeys aren’t the best. Neither have I had trips with friends like films (=even though I so badly want to). But planning this trip made me dream. It sparked a flame inside me, to go on a trek, to visit a different place with a group of totally unknown people and make friends for life!!

travelWhile we do our fair share of travelling in our cities and philosophically, we do travel through life, solo, but going to visit a new place, interacting with new people and having new experiences has a different flavor altogether. You suddenly have more experiences to talk about.

Even if you haven’t been lucky to travel abroad, do save up for it because believe me, there are so many stunning sights you have never even imagined. I have a bucket list of 1000 different places where I want to go and sights I want to see!! The sky is the limit when you travel. You are so out of your comfort zone that you adapt and learn! Being a foodie myself, a trip offers chances to taste new cuisine.

travel 2I’ve put up my Bucket List and I am going to be an Indi-Traveller, travelling on my own, discovering new sights and secrets!!! As I take a deep breath in, I can’t wait to put my best foot forward and fly solo. The world is my diary!! And it waits!!

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Istiklal Caddesi – Dinner, Churches, Some Fancy Arches and Consulates


Day 3: 12th April 2011

 

I suppose i ended the last note at the point when we just edged past the Galatasaray Lisesi. And after the yummy snack we picked up. The rest of the walk was filled with plenty of fun and lots of memorable photos. The walk ahead also had a lot of buildings with beautiful carvings and intelligent lighting.

In the midst of a chaotic shopping boulevard there was a black gate and inside lay a pink building which exuded calm and serenity. That was Church of St Anthony of Padova. We didn’t know it back then but we do now thatit is the biggest Roman Catholic Church  in Turkey. It seems this Church was built by Italian settlers in 1725 but later was demolished and then rebuilt at the same site.

The building was designed by the Istanbulite Levantino Italian architect Giulio Mongeri, who also designed many other important buildings in Istanbul and Ankara; such as the Maçka Palas (which houses Armani Café and Gucci) in Nişantaşı and the Neo-Byzantine style Karaköy Palas bank building in Karaköy (Galata), Istanbul; as well as the first headquarters of Türkiye İş Bankası in Ankara.

The inside of the Church was dark with a lot of purple lighting. It was said at some time that the reason so many rulers used to robe themselves in Purple was that the colour was considered Royal. (=Not bad, explains why i love purple, maybe i was a ruler in some pichhla janam…hmmm Raaz Picchle Janam Ka..Anyone??…Anyone???)

Alrite back to the Church. There were people lighting candles in little tranches on the side a la Mount Mary Church in Bandra. In all it was a very good feeling to go there.

Oh i forgot to mention about the incident while we were snapping oops clicking pictures of the sign saying “Istanbul Shopping Festival”. Like the mad photo clickkers we are, we went on snapping and then suddenly this guy walks up to me and says “Thank You”… forget the fact that he was a decent looking Turkish dude but i had literal question marks floating over my head a la Archie Comics Style.

Then i realised that he had seen me hold the camera and had posed. (=Who does that…….we only click pics when our cams are aimed….forget it)

As we walked deeper and deeper looking at a restaurant to grab a bite, the tummies kept growling louder and louder. There were bakeries, shops with beef kebaps and roast meat with lovely smells (=Again vegetarians please value your senses and stay away from the by lanes)

Then was the prank stop . Ah this roadside stall was the best memory from the whole trip. There was this great stall which had stuff like Magic Ink, Fake band aids, swords you could push thru your head etc along with the standard supply of bugs, beetles (=More keedas for people who already have a lot of keedas :P). Thats how i get a photo of me with a nail through my finger and the funny disguise.

The stall owner was cool enough to pose with us for a picture with the stuff he has on display. (=Turkish people are really nice!!! Makes me want to go back!!) The stall opposite to this one had something for me!! Earrings!!!! Awesome ones, rock bottom price after a lot of bargaining!!! (=Bargaining is always nice!!! And funnn to see the other person’s expression)

Finally the perfect dinner opportunity presented itself in the form of BBQ Chicken. This is the place that looked really decent and I thought would have good food. Turned out the food was delicious (=For once i won’t comment on the food!!) Plus the waiter was helpful.

Totally refreshed we touched Istiklal Caddesi again when we trudged our now tired feet to the part of the Boulevard where the Consulates started. And what a Grand Procession it was!!!!! Holland, Russia, Sweden in a row with their Palatial Consulates with superb lighting. I could just imagine working in a place like this. Which opened out to a Shopping Boulevard 😉

Finally the road curved and we reached the end of the route (=Or so we thought we didn’t explore further). There the tram services started to take us back to Taksim Square (=Where we’d seen the doggie with the Fashion Jacket!! I’m telling you,, we should drop what we’re doing and invest in grooming care for pets!!!)

The return journey to Taksim was fast, not to mention the slight delay because a drunkard got into our tram and was subsequently thrown out by the driver. The fare is not much and the ride pleasurable. Photos were clicking as we passed the big malls and the Clothes Stores and the Perfume Depts!! Also there were a few mosques that we passed. (=All done with brilliant lighting.)

And then finally a cab got us back to the Golden Horn, Sirkeci to 202/203 and to thus put a close toDAY 3

(=Phew they just keep getting longer don’t they!!)

 

sTAy Tuned for Day 4’s Masti

Simits

 

Istanbul SHOPPING fESTIVAL

 

Sant’Antonio de Padova

 

WooHooo….hello, where’d the credit card go??

 

 

 

 

Holland’s Coat of Arms

 

Holland Palace

 

Russia

 

Scergie..Oops Sweden

 

The Palaces called Embassies

 

Tramway

 

Dinner

 

Lighting

 

 

A shoe made of Shoes

 

The Perfume Store

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

,

 

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

Istanbul on a High-Galata Tower


 Day 2: 11th April

 

After a long walk exploring the Galata Bridge, we made our way to the Galata Tower. The present day Tower is one that has been restored after fires burned down the Tower. I must add a word or two about their restoration, its usually done so well that you can’t make out that it has been done recently. Also there are efforts taken to keep up the restoration which means that the Monument is always looked after.

 

History of the Galata Tower:

Galata Tower was made by Byzantium Emperor Anastasius in 507 out of wood and called Watch Tower. In 1348 Geneose took over the tower and built it out of pile stone and called it Christ Tower. When Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul in 1453, the Tower got under Ottoman Management.

In the 15th century  it was used as a Dungeon. In the 16th century it was used as a Fire Tower. In the 17th Century, Hezarfen Ahmet Çelebi put wooden wings to his arms and flew from the Galata Tower to Üsküdar (=Really it seems he practiced with eagle’s wings, flew and was banished by Sultan Murad VI because he was thought to be a public menace…”he is a scary man, he can do as he wishes”)

Damaged in the fire of Galata in 1832, Galata Tower was restored by Sultan Mahmut the Second and used as a Sign Tower. Also restored in 1967, Galata Tower gained its present day appearance and is still used for tourist information. The Tower got its name from the historical province of Istanbul, Galata.

This is a popular place for tourists as the Tower offers a panoramic view of Istanbul. It is a mode to see the Historical Peninsula. Also it offers you a beautiful view of the Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn. The Bosphorus Bridge looks elegant in the horizon.

 

 

There is also a restaurant at the top of the Tower, guaranteed to char your wallet for the remainder of the tour..The Tower Management says “If you come to restaurant, you don’t need to pay an entry fee..”  (=Ever met our IT Officials..pay through your nose and we waive off an insignificant entry fee :P)

The Tower was packed to capacity..I mean the viewing portion was packed. And i don’t doubt why..the sunset is so beautiful, it paints the city in such vivid colours. The blue turns to orange and envelops you along with with the mosques across the Sea of Marmara. Also it puts the city across as being a vulnerable and tired soul who’s just about finished the day’s work..From the Tower, its a beautiful sight.

And it is a very popular Tourist Attraction.

Taking a full round of the Tower gives you a total panoramic view of both the Historical Peninsula and the Suburbs. Also you can see the Bosphorus Bridge and the Asian side of Istanbul. Like the photos below show…this is a sight that everyone wants to see. Which is why it was a very crowded audience on the top.

Also if you are going there, do take your arsenal of warm clothes becuase it will be windy. (=Do Not follow this if you’re going in the Summer-its a given). It is indeed a restful sight to see the sunset.

There was a point where we were stuck because too many people were moving back and forth but that can be forgiven.

As we made our way to the bottom, we stopped for a quick loo break and for the first time I saw women  waiting in a queue to use the restroom…(=Mighty Impressed i Must say!!)

By the time we made our way down to the square, the lights had started twinkling and the Tower and Istanbul looked like a mysterious figure in silhoute. Yellow lights softly illuminated streets, corners and monuments.

And we took it all in as we made our way to dinner.

Comin Up: Dinner, Day 3 dawns finally 😀

Stay Tuned

 

Istanbul on a High

 

Bosphorus

 

A Mosque in the Horizon

 

Panorama 2

 

The last goodbye

 

Panorama 3

 

Mellow shades of orange

 

A lining to the clouds

 

 

Panorama 4

 

Istanbul by Nite

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

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

All in a Day’s Work – Istanbul in a Rush


Day 2 – 11th April 2011

As per our travel agent’s plans, we were taking a half day tour of Istanbul today. We were actually supposed to take it on the 13th and it included a tour of the Hagia Sophia/Ayasofya. So we called the Travel Agency in Istanbul that was handling the tours we’d booked and got it interchanged. So the tour on 13th became the Tour on 11th because we’d already covered one of the items in the tour. (=The tours are flexible that way and always include a pick up and a drop)

Oh a thing i’d forgotten to mention, Our hotel stay included breakfast so we had to go to the breakfast room which was on the top of the hotel. It was a terrace with large windows. It was beautiful to go in the morning and see the Bosphorus and Istanbul looking sleepy with mist around.

Our breakfast was always some cereal, eggs in varieties, aubergine with potatoes and youghurt, cut vegetables, some noodles, bread, cold cuts, jams and preserves. There was the customary tea and coffee and canned juice. If you wanted fresh juice they would make it live (=in front of your eyes, give u a straw with decorations on it) but charge you 7 TL for it (=Rs 210 for some juice?? Ridiculous)

But the menu would remain same for all the days with slight variations in the yoghurt dishes (=with or without aubergine)

So, at about 8:30am our pick up van came to take us for our “Half Day Istanbul Tour”. There were a lot of people to be picked up from the adjoining hotels (=In the area where we stayed, there were many hotels in the by lanes)

Like wayward sheep, we were all collected and driven towards the Dolmabache Palace where people were again shepherded into different buses as per the tour they had opted for. But there was no problem for us we stayed in the same bus. Along with us were some people who were German and needed a German guide. The English people included us, some people who were from a cruise that was taking a halt at Istanbul and some people who had opted for the Full Day Tour.

Info Snippets:

Our Guide Aziz was telling us stories about

1. Our driver (=He thought driving in Istanbul was tough during the rush hours. Apparently he hasn’t heard of Bombay Oops Mumbai and its traffic!!)

2. The Aqueducts that used to bring water from the Belgrade Forest to Istanbul, built during the Roman Times

3. The fact how every Turkish Man has to serve a year in the Armed Forces in any capacity

4. How he had to pay 1300 Euros for his wife’s wedding gown(= She had to pay 250 Euros to which a passenger remarked that it was a fair bargain 😛 :P)

5. Hotel Paradise which was the first hotel in Istanbul (=Reportedly, they spent $220 million for its interior decoration last year- Here Agatha Christie had stayed with Prime Minister of Turkey)

6. How Tulips Originated from Turkey and when the people from the Netherlands came, they saw and they took to claim their own. (=However we heard that they say the Tulips came from somewhere else in Netherlands not mentioning Turkey from another traveler)

7.The Orient Express –

First Stop: Chora Church and Museum also called Kariye Muzessi

This Church happens to be situated in a place which needs the driver to drive through narrow lanes. Squiggling through the narrow lanes we reached the Church. The guide Aziz had already got us tickets.

The charges for the tour include (usually)

  • The entry tickets (=A fancy affair in themselves)
  • Lunch (=If opted for full day tour)
  • Transfer from one place to another, Pick up from Hotel and Drop Off to hotel/any other place desired which is within the route

Chora Church/ Kariye Muzesi/Kariye Camii was

1st- Greek Orthodox Church

2nd – A Neighborhood Mosque

3rd- A Museum

 

Fact: You can tell the Status of the Mosque by counting the number of Minarets that the Mosque has (=Status meaning, the type of visitors or purpose)

If the Mosque has 1 Minaret: Neighborhood Mosque : For the locals of the area

2 Minarets: Imperial Mosque : For the Clergy and Other Nobles

 >2 Minarets: Super Special, Huge, Famous Mosque used to Commemorate an occasion or for Crowning a New Emperor/ Marriage of the Emperor etc

Back to the Church eh Museum…

The Chora Church was originally built outside the walls of Constantinople, to the south of the Golden Horn. Literally translated, the church’s full name was the Church of the Holy Saviour in the Country: (=Wikipedia ki Jai!!)

The Church is famous for its Frescos and Mosaics depicting the life of Virgin Mary and Christ. There are 4 parts of the Museum

  • Exonarthex (=North)
  • Esonarthex (=South)
  • Naos (=Main body of Church)
  • Parecclesion (=Side Chappel)

There were a lot of people from South Korea and Japan as well as from Germany because they had translators with them.

The church is beautifully decorated with frescos. The Museum Rules forbid a person from using flash while clicking pictures of the frescos lest they cause damage to the frescos. Some frescos were in a bad shape but that was done during the Iconoplastic Age when any painting/mosaic of a human was considered as a form of idol worship

The mosaics in this Church had 3 layers which we discovered when we saw a damaged mosaic of Christ. Also, the people during the Greek civilisation had used a technique to split up a piece of marble so that there was an exact mirror image in a tile. So there were 2 marble pieces which had the same pattern looking like a mirror image. It seemed that this technique took them 2-3months to do.

Charity with a Heart:

We found out that in these mosques, there was always a SOUP KITCHEN. In these kitchens, food was served to the poor and hungry.

But, but and but this place had NO WINDOWS which meant that people outside could not see who was getting free food inside. Thats really nice and thoughtful

Verdict for Chora Church:

Unless you are an art lover or a historian, this place can easily be skipped. Its a neighbourhood mosque that has been preserved extremely well. Every little bit of history has been kept intact and made it a place of tourist interest

(=Imagine having every small temple with its history and stories documented and properly preserved!!! How nice that would be but what a Mammoth task!!)

I’ll continue the rest in another note

Keep tuned in for : Roman Hippodrome- Chariot into the past, Blue..blue and blue..A mosque lies ahead, Kalins and Magical Carpets, Grand Bazaar, Galata Bridge, Galata Tower n Fishy Dinner all on Day 2

 

Apple Cai, A note late but nonetheless

Gir Afternoon Safari – Through the Sanctuary with the lions (finally!!!)


DAY 2: 17th January 2011

The Gir Forest Reserve has one of the most dynamic teams which is dedicated to make the lion survive and also ensure that the flora and fauna alongside is intact if not increasing. There are so many initiatives and a constant check is kept on the health of the lions and their movement across the park.

Fact: 1. Although the Gir Sanctuary is 1412 sq km reserve, only a small part is open for tourists.

2. Ever since Amitabh Bacchan advertised for Sasan Gir, the footfalls have gone up tremendously. The local economy

makes 5 times in the peak season than what they do otherwise!! 😀 😀

It is also said that the best time to visit the Gir Sanctuary is in the summer months of April and May. But one would question this.

Q: Why should you go to Gujarat of all places and go on a safari in the sweltering heat of the Indian Summer??

A: The summer is the best time to see as many animals as you can because they all come out to drink water at various spots. Also, the summer is where lion spotting is at a peak.

Now your hotel probably reserves you the spot at the sanctuary for an ‘Afternoon Safari’ but they will definitely add their own charges along with it so if you have your own vehicle or are close to the Park, then I’d suggest you book your own safari.

The Safari charges are nominal (=Rs 1750) and it also include a guide who is sent with you to help you identify the various species that you manage to see. Often (=as we found out, always) the guide spots fauna for you, which are things that you wouldn’t even notice.

The guides are employed by the State Forest Department and are paid a fixed salary. (=which is minuscule). Also there are 6 routes that a jeep can take. Its 3 routes used back and forth. (=route 2 is also route 6 backwards)

The guides have their own code of letting the fellow guides know that a lion’s on their way so It is essential that you DO NOT tell people you meet about lions that you saw because it gets your guide in trouble.

So we decided to go on the afternoon safari on 17th Jan. The afternoon safari starts at 3:30 and you are out by 6. The park is shut in the evenings and nights and entry is prohibited with harsh punishments.

So by and by we were allotted Route 2 which is supposed to be the best route as far as lion sightings are concerned. Our guide was Abu Bhai (who tuned out to be a good friend). At 3:30 we set out for our Afternoon Safari.

At the gate, the guide is required to get the receipt and the vehicle permit checked so that no unauthorised vehicle goes into the Sanctuary.

As soon as we entered, we saw a peacock as if it was waiting to welcome us. The old jeeps we were travelling in made  quite a noise. All around us, there were trees covered with dust, with brown prevailing more than green.

Suddenly the guide, (=Abu Bhai) asked the driver to stop the jeep. We were quite puzzled as we couldn’t see any animal or bird. Then we saw a couple of paw prints in the dirt. Looking at the paw prints, Abu Bhai reckoned that a lioness with cubs had been on this way some while back which increased our chances of sighting a lion. The guides and the other forest officials do their best to make your safari worthwhile by showing you lions.

The Forest Department, in order to keep a strict watch on the lion population, sends trackers who play on their lives and follow the lions to check their movements and also keep a watch on their general health. If during your Safari, you run into a Tracker (like We Did 😛 :P) it means there is a lion/lioness/cubs nearby!!

We did see a lot of spotted deer, the ones that we saw in the Devaliya Interpretation Centre.  We also spotted a green bird and we drove through a small pond.

Then we noticed a basti (=settlement) of tribals called Maldharis. The Maldharis are tribal people who live inside the Gir Forest. They have been there for decades and they live in harmonious co-existance with nature. The Forest Department allows only the Maldharis to settle in the Sanctuary, this being their home for decades and does not allow others. Maldharis are mostly uneducated and work in menial jobs earning a pittance. But they have intimate knowledge about the forest and its functioning and are a valuable asset to the forest department. Yet, because of increasing population and the spread into deeper areas of the forest, the Department has a problem at its hand.

We took a turn at a point where you could see the hills and it was a beautiful sight. And there was a person who came out and spoke to Abu Bhai and to our delight it was a tracker which meant there were Asiatic Lions nearby. So we waited patiently. Also we noticed that there was a Forest Patrol Officer in the bushes. These officers patrol the tourist paths to make sure that the tourists do not stray and wander or litter. If you’re caught, then a strict procedure is followed I’ve heard.

Along with us there were a few others who were waiting, 2 other jeeps to be precise. And we had to wait there patiently for our turn as we tried out our new Sony camera

While we were waiting we ate a few chocolates (=Power Munchies) being careful not to throw the wrappers anywhere.

Even though it was around 4:00 it wasnt hot in the forest. The forest is densely packed with trees. shrubs and undergrowth of grass and other flora. So those act as natural temperature monitors. There was a time when we drove through a thicket of forest and the temperature drop inside the glade was almost 3-4 degrees.

well back to the lions. So we waited our turn and drove through to see a lioness playing with her cub, well it actually wasnt like that. The lioness simply looked bored while the cub poked, lazed and played with her. I guess the heat was bothering the mummy along with the cub because once she just grabbed a bite off the cub telling it to mind its own business.

The cub had a lazy stretch after which it playfully jumped at the mother again when the mother started playing with it too, biting and licking the cub. It was a real treat to watch. We were simply awestruck. I guess even among animals the relationship between the mother and child is same as us humans, (= remember our mothers playfully attacking us after we bugged them, see the same!!)

We could have stayed there forever watching this exchange but our driver took us ahead where a teen cub (=duh she was a little grown up, looked moody n didn’t indulge in games with the cub!!) Also she was hidden amongst some dry grass so we couldn’t get her picture properly and i know it was a she because she didn’t have a mane growing!!

After our lion fantasy, (=we were darn lucky few people get to see what we saw, lions playing with each other, a cub, etc etc) we drove on ahead. To our surprise (=and Super luck) there was another lioness ahead. But she was surrounded by jeeps with many people chattering as usual.

What I don’t understand is the need to converse and gossip among yourselves as if the animal u see is a model i mean you’re in the jungle so doesn’t it seem right to shut your trap for a while?? Amartya Sen rightly calls Indians argumentative, we feel the need to talk always even without reason.

Finally our guide got others to shut up. It wasnt a picnic at a zoo really. I urge tourists who have plans to go to Gir to please respect the place you are at, spare the jungle and save the chatter for afterwards.

We would have had a chance to see a third lion but the tracker said that the lioness (=in this case) was hidden and could move anytime so it wasn’t worth the drive. So we went on ahead.

As we drove on, we noticed a weird parrot like bird, i think it was called ‘Plum headed Parakeet’ or the like (=Sorry if i got the name wrong!) which Abu Bhai said was a rare sight. We also spotted a boar, (=which we found out was the lion’s dessert, a choosy pick over the deer or sambar that is preferred usually)  Also we saw an eagle (=A Lesser spotted Eagle as Google Images reveals)

We also spotted the ‘Ghost Tree’ (=Ooh Spooky).  It’s supposed to be a native to Australia but survives here because of migratory birds bringing seeds in their droppings.

We drove through a thicket of trees, also called as the ‘Dark Forest’ (=Aww quit it it was nothing like the Forbidden Forest)  and through red muddy tracks (=as opposed to brown tracks before) to make our way out of the Safari. On the way we also crossed a railway line, from i think Rajkot to Somnath that passes through the Sanctuary borders. It’s a narrow guage railway line and there was a station called Sasan, Gir \. That must make good watching, passing through the Sanctuary.

Thus ends our AFternoon Safari, First Lion(ess) Sighting and Encounter with Nature

Coming Up ASAP: Morning Safari, Drive to Somnath and others

Also notes on Turkey 😀 😀

The forest patrol bikes!! Pretty cool i’d think

a peacock at the entrance to greet us

The Road Ahead

Naughty Cub Poking Bored Mum

Mummy n Baby

Bored Model.

Lioness wid Pillu (=Cub)

Gir Travels- Is that a lion i see??


Alright, alright…I sense that I should bring the lions into picture somewhere.

Since its traveler’s luck that brings a successful lion sighting, the Gujarat Government has an Interpretation Centre (=I don’t know why it’s called the Interpretation Centre….we didnt decode any lion language anyway).

This Interpretation Centre is at a place called Devaliya. This place is about 7 kms from an intersection. This interpretation centre is open for few hours in the day. The whole intersection turning to go to Devaliya is closed from after sunset to sunrise

      

Most of the places were very sensitive to Lion lifestyles and did all they could to adjust to the lion’s way of life. A proper integration of Nature’s Way and the Human Way leads to rich dividends!!

Alright back to point. SO after a huge breakfast at Club Mahindra we made our way to the Devaliya Interpretation Centre. One bad thing about the whole Gir Sanctuary is that a road runs through it. There is a State Highway running parallel to the Interpretation Centre and a Railway line running through Gir (=Junagad to Somnath).But this doesn’t seem to have disturbed the lions who according to forest officials are flourishing in the Last Home to the Asiatic Lion.

Ya so back to the point!!

We were up (=ya ya tents!!! we wanted to laze forever!! who doesn’t) when we realised we’d better move if we wanted to see the Centre. So we packed up and went driving. Along the way, we noticed deer. The whole patch is a dry forest and is very dusty. But the deer are unperturbed as we drive through they probably being used to having cars zoom by. There are resorts and even a restaurant on our way there.

P.S” All resorts will be named after the Lion and having some derivative of the Majestic Pride. So there will be lots of places like “Lions Den” or “Lion Safari Camp” or having the word “Sher” in their name. I guess being located in a region which is the last haven for the Asiatic Lion is bound to have some ripple effect.

The Interpretation Centre is a 412 hectare of chain link fenced lion area which is Gir in a nutshell, covering all habitat types and wildlife of Gir (so i copy from a tourist booklet but facts are facts!!). It also has a feeding-cum living cage for carnivores and a double gate entry point. This Centre at present has 1400-1500 spotted deer, 200-250 blue bulls (a spectacular sight), 100-120 wild boar, 15-20 blackbucks (stunning sight), a few chinkaras and sambars aong with other mammals and reptiles. Not to forget the Lions.

After booking our tickets  (=Charges Rs 75 only per Indian and $20 per firangi), we made our way to the bus. There is a bus (=Eco-friendly, Runs on Jatropha Bio-diesel) which takes you on a tour of the Centre. Just as we entered after a while we saw some Sambar deer. This is the main animal that the lion feeds on (=70-80 kgs of sheer delight I’ve heard enough to knock the lion for 20 hrs). They are more majestic than the easily “spotted” deer (:P) and make wonderful watching. There we passed a few Nilgai (=Blue Bulls) These are extremely shy and canter off whenever they come into public eye. The whole landscape is yellow, criss-crossed with myriad hues of brown, streaked with a random green. I’ve got some wonderful snaps of the dust rising up because of our bus running over a dirt track.

After a good deal of driving through the bushes (=it literally looks like that although there are trees and shrubs there), the Lion came into sight. Actually there were 3 of them! Lazing! In the Sun! As we waited to grab them on camera, they Lazed! and Slept! Oblivious of their fans waiting for a picture to show back home! Nonetheless we got a shot of them snoozing and one Lion looked up the other way as if he was snubbing us (=How dare he!! I have a good mind to set Rajni on him!! pun intended)

Ah the Black Bucks are a sight to see!! Their horns curving gracefully with hard rims and the majestic sweep of white along their eyes!!! Mindblowing!! The Sambar and Spotted Deer pale in comparison!! I am uploading a picture!!

We were also treated to a pack of deer drinking water at a pool nearby. A simple sight it is to see animals drink but yet it is so calming. I could just sit and stare at that sight for a long long time

The trail ended soon and we made our way to the Interpretation Centre where there was a small TV playing a video made on the Gir Forest and the lion habitat there. There was also a display spanning 2 rooms about the History og Gir, The Fauna of Gir, Birds, Reptiles and other Interesting Facts that made Gir special. It also shed light on the importance of Gir to the local ecosystem and how essential it was to the ecological balance and survival of the adjoining areas. It was very well done.

Following that, we went to the Souvenir shop and got some T-Shirts, Honey (=Yummy), Some Caps and the Book with photos and Information about Gir (=ya i copied the facts out of this little one!)

After we went outside, we saw uhh..A scoo-cart!! Its a scooter which pulls a cart behind it!! Innovative. It functions as a rickshaw and they ply between towns. It also takes your harvest to the market. So presenting Rural Gujarat’s eccentric and indigenous reply to the Tractor. Presenting the “Scoo-Cart” (=I made the name up its not what its called there)

We clicked a few photos with the scoo-cart. After that we had some tea at a restaurant which also had a farm behind it as well as tents. Then we made our way to Club Mahindra.

Coming Up: The Actual Gir Safari-To see or not to see..Its not in my hand anyway

Stay Tuned

The Spotted Deer…we “Spotted” them most often

Board at the entrance

A Sambar

A shy Blue Bull

One of the pics