Try the quiz and see where you wind up, you might be surprised!
Here’s another of Monkey Fists’ always interesting Maritime Monday posts. I’m still in New Orleans, but heading home tonight. Hope to catch up soon (if I don’t get lucky and find a job). Tighter marine fuel sulfur limits will spark changes by both refiners and vessel operators The …
Here’s my choice for the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Relax.
I took it my last night on Zanzibar, before I began the hectic process of returning to America and back to ‘real life’. Stress of airports and TSA BS pretty much negated the beautiful peaceful month I spent traveling overseas.
I checked into my new hotel this afternoon. When I walked outside to take a look at the beach, I noticed a column of smoke not too far away. Actually, it was pretty close.
I went to see what was going on. As I got closer, I could see the flames shooting up. Spreading quickly up the thatched roof of a nearby resort.
I went over to see if I could help (as a mariner I’ve been training in firefighting for the last 30+ years).
The scene was complete chaos.
Like a ‘Chinese fire drill’, but no Chinese around. It was an African fire drill, but not a drill. A real fire, and a big one!
There was a huge crowd milling around, taking photos and selfies. European tourists in bikinis and locals from the nearby village.😦
Someone decided to be ‘official’ and ran a bunch of yellow plastic crime scene tape around the area. Best I could tell, the waiters were trying to fight the fire. There were a couple of groups of guys trying to get the fire hoses straightened out.
Dozens of people- locals, Maasai men, workers from the resorts, and a few tourists (including me)- joined in to help fight the fire and keep the flames from spreading.
One hose ran all the way from my resort- at least a half mile- there was no water pressure. The same situation on the other side of the building.
It was a large, mostly open air, building with a palm thatched roof. From the gear scattered around outside, I assumed it was the kitchen/dining room. There were tables and chairs, serving bars, small refrigerators, serving platters and condiment trays.
On my side of the flaming building, there was a small market and massage business. People were moving all the paintings, carvings and tables further away from the fire. On the other side, there were about 2 dozen little thatched palapas between the fire and the next building.
Luckily, the wind was blowing pretty much directly towards the ocean and not to either side. If it had been, it would have been a complete disaster. As it was, they were very, very lucky it wasn’t a lot worse.
By the time I walked from my resort past the one next door to the one where the fire was, the fire had spread from one end of the building to the other. It was not just the thatched roof now, but a raging inferno as the fire consumed all the interior furniture, framework, etc.
Outside was still complete chaos. There was still no water pressure. I kept wondering why didn’t they have a pump set up? They could keep one set up in the little shack there on the beach, keep a couple of hoses nearby and they’d have all the fire-fighting capability they’d ever need with the ocean right there.
I noticed the manager (or the man who seemed most to be in charge) and offered to help. Put some of those decades of experience to use, but he was too agitated to bother with me. I feel sorry for him. He told me they had just had a drill 3 days ago.
I’m not sure what the problem was with the water pressure, they did eventually get the hose to work. In the meantime, I was helping the women in the bucket brigade. We were filling any containers we could find in the swimming pool, passing them through the kitchen, through the palapas, to the men who would throw them onto the fire.
Other men were working on trying to take down the palapas, to keep the sparks from igniting them and spreading the fire to the rest of the resort. A couple of guys got hold of a water hose and were doing what they could with it.
I noticed a fire extinguisher and wondered why no one had thought to put it to use?
All I could think about was what a waste. The lack of training was so obvious, it was sad. These people were doing their best, many were plainly very upset. I noticed tears on the faces of a few of the women. The men were yelling and pointing and extremely agitated. I wish I could speak their language, but I’m limited with just English.
I tried to catch someone who spoke English, to give them a few pointers (since they were not fighting the fire very effectively). I hoped no one would get hurt when they went inside the building (with barely enough water pressure for a garden hose) and no protective equipment. Most of them were in shorts and flip-flops.
There is always the danger of re-flash and yes, the fire did flare up again a few times. A few men kept up throwing buckets of water and sand on the thatch when the women were told to get back to serving lunch (WTF???).
I would offer to do some drills with them while I’m here, but somehow I think they might not appreciate that. I’m sure it would help to just get everyone confident with a fire extinguisher. I’m not sure what started the fire, but since it was in the kitchen/dining room, I assume it started in the kitchen.
Grease fire? Burned the bacon? I’d like to know what really happened. I sure do hope they review this incident and get some ‘lessons learned’. I’m glad no one got hurt, but from watching the whole episode, that had to be pure luck.
PS- I heard today that it did start in the kitchen. They cook over open flames mostly here. The story I got was that the cooking fire somehow caught the gas bottles (in a small room) and then there was an explosion.
Internet still really SUCKS, but here’s what I get to look at in the meantime.🙂
I have so many great stories to share from this safari. Tons of great photos too. Too bad the internet is so horrible here and I can’t get anything posted. I can’t even open my mail on yahoo.
I’ve spent the last week on safari in Tanzania with Great Escape Publishing. There were about 20 of us altogether- 16 ‘students’ and 4 teachers- in 4 jeeps (or land rovers).
We started and ended our safari from the African Tulip in Arusha. We had a lucky week. The weather was great, hardly any rain. We saw all of the big 5- even a rhino at the very end (but it was so far away I could hardly see it).
We saw lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, hippos, buffalos, gazelles, giraffes, zebras and more. What was really fantastic was seeing so many of the babies. I’ve got some fantastic photos! Not as many as I’d like, but enough that I’m still thrilled.🙂
Even tho I bought a new lens especially for this trip, it wasn’t really what I needed and so I missed out on a lot of really great shots I could have gotten if I had spent the money for the proper equipment.
I bought a 70-300mm lens with an adapter for my Sony camera. The adapter was manual tho, so it was really hard to get it to focus. Almost all of my shots were blurry when I used that lens. I finally gave up and went back to using my old 70-210 lens where the auto focus worked.
The other problem I had was that my camera does not have an eyepiece to look through. I had to use the screen on the back of the camera and since it was so bright out, I couldn’t really see anything to focus on and just had to guess half the time.
I’m glad I got to make the trip, but it’s a shame I was so concerned about money that I skimped on the camera gear. If I ever get a chance to come back over here, I’ll try to get a better lens. It makes so much of a difference.
I’ve been trying for hours to get a post uploaded. It’s still not working.😦
I’m traveling around a gorgeous island. I hate to spend so much time trying to stay connected instead of enjoying the beauty around me.
If I can’t manage to get anything done tonight, I’m signing off til I get home (or at least to the airport where the internet works).
Another very early morning wakeup brought us to spending the day with a couple of the traditional tribes of the area. First the Hadzabe, the hunters, next the Datogas, the blacksmiths. We had to meet the Hadzabe very early for a special treat, we would go on a hunt with their men!
We left the beautiful Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge at 0545 and drove about 45 minutes to the Hadzabe camp. They still live a nomadic life, so we met them at one of their temporary camps. They had built scattered domed huts out of thin, flexible branches tied together in addition to their ‘rooms’ in a rocky outcrop atop a high hill.
When we arrived, we met the chief and through our interpreter, Joseph, he explained the basics of their lifestyle. The men brought us up to a large overhang of the rock where they had a fire going. They explained the different types of arrows they used for hunting (some were poisonous).
A couple of them showed us how they started a fire (no, not with a Bic lighter), the old fashioned way of twisting a stick until it gets hot enough to light the tinder. The Hadzabe men used the spark to light their pipes for a good long toke. A few of our troop tried it too- (lighting the fire, not smoking the weed)- but only one succeeded (just barely). It looked a lot harder when our group tried to do it. The Hadzabe made it look so easy.
Similar to the Maasai, they were nomadic. But the Hadzabe were hunters, not herders. The chief also had more than 1 wife. The men spent their days hunting and preparing to hunt. They made their bows and arrows, sharpened their knives, kept the fire going, and smoked a lot of weed while they were at it. They offered some to us, but nobody was brave enough to accept.
After the demonstration, we left with the men on their daily hunt. I followed along for about 20 minutes, up and down the rocky hillsides, surrounded by thorny plants in the hot sun. The hunters were already so far ahead of me I couldn’t see what good it was doing to try to keep up with them. I was rushing- huffing and puffing- and not able to really pay attention to my surroundings and thought better about continuing on.
I turned around and went back to camp. Joseph escorted me and a couple of others who also wanted to return, just to make sure we made it back safely.
Joseph brought us back to camp, introduced us to the women and then returned to the hunt.
Like the Maasai, the Hadzabe women stay in camp and tend to the household chores. They take care of the children, do whatever needs doing around the camp, and make items for trade. I watched as all the women and children sat together creating beautiful beadwork items (which they later showed our group- just in case anyone wanted to buy).
It took a couple of hours for the men to return to camp- along with our group who stuck it out with them. Sorry to say, they didn’t catch anything. They’ll have to try again later. In preparation for heading out again, they practiced with their bow and arrows and a target stump a couple hundred feet down the slope. We watched as all the men (even the young boys) took their shots at the stump. They even offered to teach us how to do it.
A couple of our group decided to take them up on it and took a couple of shots at the stump. No one managed to hit the target. I tried to pull the string of one of the small boys’ bow. No, I couldn’t pull it even halfway back. We all had fun, the Hadzabe had a good laugh at how awful we were.
Before we left, the tribe got together and gave us a farewell present. They put on a dance show for us and even invited us into the dance. It was a fun ending to our visit.
I’ll update this post with the video as soon as I can get somewhere with decent internet.
This afternoon, after our last visit to Tarangire National Park, we got to visit with the Maasai tribe. A real highlight of our safari so far.
The chief met us on arrival at his village. A tall man, dressed in the traditional red robes of his tribe, he spoke very good English as he explained daily life in his village.
We watched as a couple of ladies built a new house out of long, thin sticks. They had stuck them in the ground to make a circle about 8-10 ft in diameter. When we arrived, they were circling the structure with more thin sticks and then tying them together every few inches.
The chief explained that they would cover this framework with cow dung mixed with mud and water to insulate the home (and keep the termites out). Then they would roof it with palm fronds.
He explained how his family functioned. He had 3 wives. The first one got to pick the rest of them out. They all had to get along. He had to have so many head of cattle before he could marry. The more cows, the more wives he could have.
The men spent their days tending their herds, the women were responsible for everything else: raising the children, cooking, taking care of the house (and even building it). The women also spent time making items to trade (and sell to any tourists that came by).
After the chief answered our questions, he brought us to the corral where they kept their animals at night. Built of thorny branches in a thick layer, it kept out the predators. Inside, we were treated to a dance put on by most of the tribe. The women on one side and the men on the other.
The women wore large beaded collars around their necks. One or two would move from the ends towards each other in the center of their line- bowing their upper bodies and chanting. The men stayed on their side of the corral, humming and chanting in low voices. Every so often they would jump straight up with their spears, as high as they could.
When the dance finished up to a round of applause, the women spread out their creations for our inspection (and hopefully a sale).
It was a little gross, walking through all the cow patties, etc. But when it comes to shopping (and getting good photos), nothing would stop us.😉
They made beautiful beaded jewelry- necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings. They made carved and painted animal figures, bowls and boxes. They had a pretty good day by the time we left.
Yes we contributed to their commercialization. Their lives have already been corrupted by modernity no matter how much they try to retain their traditional culture. I’m glad I got to meet them, before they get too homogenized. I hope they can improve their lives and somehow keep their culture strong too.
We loaded up our (4) jeeps right after breakfast where we were introduced and got a short run down of the plan for the week. By 1000, we left behind the African Tulip and were on our way to our first safari, at Tarangire National Park.
It was about a 2 hour drive. On arrival, we had a picnic lunch (and bathroom break) while we waited for the paperwork (entrance permits, fees, etc) to be completed.
We had sandwiches, salads, yogurt, popcorn and fruit while we watched a nearby herd of elephants slowly foraging their way through the area. I also spotted a nursing warthog under some trees. A troop of mongooses paraded through our picnic too. It was a good omen for the rest of the day.
Which was to prove prescient. We found more elephants, 2 groups of lions- one females- one young males. We saw lots of wildebeest, warthogs (with babies), some giraffes, gazelles, water bucks, dik-diks, zebras, and even a leopard!
What a great start to our safari!
We finished up before sunset and were off to our next lodge- Lake Eyasi Safari Lodge. By the time we got there, it was already getting dark. All of us were tired and ready for dinner and bed.
The lodge was very spread out. They sent guides with spears to escort us to and from our rooms. I wondered what they’d do if a lion rushed us (but not enough to really see it happen).😉
There were all sorts of wild animals around (it was still a wildlife conservation area, even tho outside the national park). I heard wildebeest grunting through the night outside my cabin. We saw zebras right up close as we were eating dinner. So cool!
The ‘tents’ were very nice. Large and comfortable. Mine had 2 beds (with mosquito netting), a large shower, separate toilet, and sink in the middle. Screened windows all around for a fantastic view (with curtains you could close for privacy). There was no AC, but 2 fans and a nice breeze kept it a nice cool temperature. I could only find one plug near the sink to charge all my electronics but it was enough once I figured out how to do it.
In the morning we were able to appreciate the beauty of the landscape. The lake was about a quarter mile away. I could just make out the large flocks of flamingos out there. There were herds of zebras and wildebeests grazing. An occasional ostrich passed by. So peaceful and beautiful.🙂
I wish we’d gotten in earlier the night before so we could have a little time to see the sunset and explore the grounds. But then we would have had to cut our time in the park short.😦
This is the first halfway decent internet we’ve had since we left the African Tulip on Monday. We’ve been covering a lot of ground since then.
Tonight we’re staying at the beautiful Sopa Lodge on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. This place is really something! I only wish they had internet available in the rooms, but actually happy to have it even in the main lodge.🙂
Here’s a little preview of the sort of things I’ve been seeing the last couple of days.
Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to post again tomorrow night. If not, hang in there, I’ll get to it as soon as I can get decent internet again.🙂
I had planned a long layover in Istanbul on the way to Tanzania in order to ensure that I wasn’t jet lagged for the photography safari I was joining. I enjoyed spending almost 2 weeks in Turkey, but I was still completely exhausted when I arrived in Arusha to meet the rest of the group I’d joined up with.
I’ve joined quite a few events with Great Escape Publishing (ex: AWAI). I’ve done writing and/or photography workshops in Boston (where I learned how to start my blog), Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, and Korea. They’re always great. I meet interesting people, learn a lot, and get to explore new places. I’ve been looking forward to this photography safari for a long time.
I was so glad I stopped over in Turkey first. It’s such a fascinating country. The history alone would be enough to convince me to visit. But the people really make it special. I had such a wonderful time there and hope I get to go back soon.
On the day of departure, I spent a leisurely morning at the hotel, slept til 0900, had a nice breakfast, packed, checked out late (1300) and enjoyed chatting with Genghis at the front desk for an hour or so waiting for my ride to the airport.
I spent my time after checking in at the Turkish Airlines lounge. Wow! I’ve been in quite a few airport lounges and I’ve never seen anything like it!
They had everything from a library, to a pool table, to a movie theatre (with fresh hot popcorn). They had all kinds of food and drinks, serve yourself bars scattered around the 2 floors of the lounge. They had a chef cooking up turkish pizzas (pides) and another making fresh omelettes, another grilling beef, chicken, pork, and another doing stir fry.
They had separate stations for bar snacks (various nuts, pretzels, chips, etc), salad bars, dessert bars, even an olive bar.
They had plenty of comfortable chairs to relax in, they even had suites (if your connection met certain pre-requisites). They had massage chairs and even a couple of real, roving masseuses!
I have to say, I was relaxed and ready for the rest of my trip.
Too bad the rest of it wasn’t nearly as nice.
The flight was full. Nothing new there. It’s been that way since 9-11. Planes stuffed full, overcrowded like a South American chicken bus. It was hot as hell. For some reason they refused to turn the AC on. I was sweating to death the entire 6+ hours. So were my seat mates (from Austria). Unbelievable, but some people were actually wearing jackets. Where were they from? The Amazon jungle???
We had a pretty decent flight other than the heat, the crowding and the fact that they ran out of alcohol early in the flight so had no help in trying to sleep. After 6+ hours, we arrived in Kilimanjaro airport.
I was one of the first ones off the plane since they opened both doors and I was near the back. I had my form filled out that they gave us on the plane, so I figured I lucked out when there was only 1 other person in line in front of me. When I got to the visa desk, I found out I had to go get another form (the exact same information but on a smaller page) and then come back. Wondering why if they gave us one form on the plane, they couldn’t give us both? It would have saved a major hassle on landing.
I went back, filled out the second form, got back in the visa line. Then I was allowed to pay my $100 US (must be new bill) for the visa. I cleared customs (there was no one there) and met my driver outside the luggage area.
Then I had to wait for 90 minutes for the rest of the group to come out.😦
Once everyone was sorted out, we left for the drive to our hotel in Arusha- another hours drive.
We arrived exhausted at around 0500. I finally made it to sleep at 0600.
Slept in til noon. Got up for lunch (should have slept through it). Went right back to sleep since I was still totally exhausted. Finally woke up fairly refreshed in time for dinner at around 0700 where I met the rest of the group.
I hate that I had to waste an entire day in a foreign country sleeping! Still glad for the stop over in Turkey, I would have been much worse of after 2+ days traveling then only the 6 hour flight from Istanbul.
I’ve been on the move the last couple of days and too tired to post. I spent all day yesterday traveling- flew out of Istanbul and arrived at the Kilimanjaro airport around 2 am.
We got to the beautiful African Tulip hotel in Arusha at around 5:30 am and all I could do was pass out in bed. I woke up around noon for lunch, walked down the street to an ATM, then took a nap.
Woke up in time to sit out by the pool for a little bit before dinner. Met most of the group I’ll be spending the next week with over dinner and now falling asleep again.
We will get up early for breakfast by 0730. We need to have our bags packed and be checked out by the time class starts at 0800. We leave here for the start of our safari right after class.
Straight from the emailed schedule…
Following your first presentation, we’ll make our way to Tarangire National Park, which boasts an amazing array of diverse wildlife, but is best known for its incredible concentration of elephants. In the late afternoon we’ll head back to our lodge and rest before tomorrow’s visit with the Maasai tribe.
I’m really looking forward to it! I’ll try to keep you posted and hoping to have some great photos to add. I’m not sure about internet access once we leave here in the morning. I may not be able to get online again for a week.😦
I’ve been busy the last couple of days. I’ve been touring around Cappadocia. Late last night, I returned to Istanbul. Today I decided to take a little bit of a break. Tomorrow will start another week of early mornings and long days as I head off into Africa.🙂
On arrival in Cappadocia, I was loaded into a van with a few other world travelers. One man from Chile, one from Malaysia, one from the Netherlands and a couple of couples from other places in Turkey. We were going on the ‘Red Tour” today.
In addition to the weird and other worldly landscape of the area, the most interesting part (to me) was the Goreme Open Air Museum. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and definitely worth a visit.
The museum showcases an ancient religious center, full of rock carved dwellings, churches, monasteries, nunneries, etc. Our tour guide Vaysi was very good. He explained everything in English and Turkish (and sometimes Spanish for the Chilean guy). Vaysi also speaks Chinese and Portuguese if you’re interested.😉
I was impressed with the frescos. Many of the churches had frescos of Jesus Christ, the Saints, and many of the important events from the Bible. Plenty of them are still vibrant after thousands of years. Too bad they don’t allow photography inside most of the caves (they worry about the flash harming the frescos and don’t want to deal with separating out those who don’t have flash on their cameras- people like me).😦
It was amazing how the people managed to build all these places so long ago.
The entire area is covered in hundreds of meters of volcanic ash, some of it is ‘tuff’. Tuff is a soft, easily carved stone. The people in this area have been making use of this property for millennia. They’ve carved homes, churches, even entire cities out of the stone. Some people still live in the ‘cave houses’. The hotel I stayed in had rooms carved out of the rock (mine wasn’t one of those).
I wondered how they managed to climb up and down so high every day. How did they get their food and water and everything else they needed all the way up to those caves? Personally I found it exhausting just walking around to the lower ones. We spent a couple of hours exploring the highlights. There was a lot more to see if you wanted to spend all day wandering around.
I would say I got up early this morning to fly to Cappadocia, but I never got a single minute of sleep last night. I was up til almost 3 am getting organized and then up at 0500, but never did actually fall asleep.
The driver was on time to pick me up at 0545, there was an accident on the way to the airport, but it didn’t delay us too long. I was checked in by 0640. The flight to Cappadocia was supposed to board at 0700 (it was actually a few minutes late).
They board with those damned busses instead of gates, so there’s a mad rush to get to the plane when they stop and let you off. I had a window seat but it was pretty cloudy for most of the way. It was a short flight (only about an hour), but I was nodding off most of the way.
I perked up over breakfast, and the sky cleared up as we neared Nevshahir (anyone know how to make the Turkish letters?).
The driver was waiting for me at the airport, but we had to wait for a few other passengers. Once we got to the travel agency’s main office, I had to wait some more for another group to show up. I was nodding off again.
We finally got on the road around 0930, which was pretty much on schedule.
It was a long day, full of interesting sights to see and things to do. Uchisar Castle, Goreme Open Air Museum, Cavusin village, Pasabag fairy chimneys, (lunch), Avanos pottery demonstration, Devrent Valley, Urgup fairy chimneys, and a carpet factory to top it all off!
I’ll have to give you the rest of the story tomorrow. I’m just too tired to go into it all tonight, and I have to get up early again tomorrow. They’re picking me up at 0530 for a balloon ride.🙂
One thing I’ve learned since I got here. Don’t book any tours before you get here! It’s much cheaper here than in Istanbul. For example, I noticed a balloon tour posted for 240 TL, (around $80), when I was quoted $160 for the same thing in Istanbul!
I think that goes for the whole trip. I decided to do this on the spur of the moment, so I didn’t take any time to plan or research. I know I could have saved a ton of money by booking my flights, hotels and transfers myself. At least on the Istanbul side. It’s easy enough to take the metro from Sultanahmet to the airport. That saves a ton of money right there!
Hope you all have a good night, sleep well. I know I will.🙂
I was picked up right on time at my hotel. I was glad to see a few others coming along while making our way to the ship.
We arrived at the dock, just past the Galata Bridge, and boarded our vessel (sorry but I didn’t get the name). There were a few similar vessels Med moored to the seawall. Our group was one of the first to arrive. We all went to our assigned tables and the crew brought out our national flags for us.
I was surprised by how many different nationalities were represented on this cruise. Azerbaijan, Japan, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa, Lebanon, Tunisia, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, India, and more. Just at my table there were people from Kuwait, Pakistan, UK, Algeria, and US (me). And the boat wasn’t really all that crowded.🙂
We got underway and got to know each other over our appetizer plate. I tried to figure out what everything was. I tasted a little bit of everything. Nothing was really familiar except for a slice of baloney, some cheese, slice of cucumber and tomato.
Between all of us at the table, we figured out that we also had hummus, carrot salad (not sure what else was in it but the carrots but it was good), potato salad, and dolmus (Greek word for stuffed grape leaves with spiced rice inside). There was also another salad with peas, carrots. And an orangy mystery. Nobody had any clue as to what it was. It was bland tasting, like maybe some sort of bean paste.
We had a choice of chicken, fish or spicy Turkish meatballs for our entree. I had the grilled chicken. It was nothing spectacular. It came with rice and a small salad.
While we were eating, the MC went around the room. Table by table he gave a little pep talk on each nationality, while the rest of us cheered him on. It was actually pretty entertaining. The guy was good.😉
The show started with a Whirling Dervish. I liked his lighted costume. I wondered how he didn’t get dizzy spinning around like that. But I think that’s pretty much the point. They’re supposed to get dizzy. Remember how you used to spin around when you were a kid? Same thing.😉
After the Dervish, we had various folk dances. The dancers were excellent. They were spinning and jumping around. The men did something similar to the famous cossack dances. They even did a knife throwing exhibition (only at a block of wood).
The belly dancers were the big hit of the night’s show. The main dancer went all around the room, teasing all the men and really hamming it up. I do wonder how people who have such traditions as belly dancers can also want to keep all women covered up with nothing but their eyes showing. I find it kind of funny to watch the ladies taking photos of each other when they’re all covered up like that. I mean, how can you even tell who’s who? I really just don’t understand the Muslims.
Last night was a great example of people from all over the world- different cultures, different languages, different histories, etc- just getting along being people together and having a good time.
The show ended and the DJs started playing some wild dance music. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single song he played before, but I liked it. Most everyone else knew the songs by heart.
Everyone really got into it. All but a few were out on the dance floor. One woman was jumping around out there with her baby (who looked bewildered). The group of ladies from Lebanon started line dancing (a little differently than we do it in Texas).😉
It was pretty chilly outside, but I had to go out to take pictures a few times.😉
The waterway was beautiful at night. The bridges were all light up. We passed by some of the larger buildings close enough to get a good shot. The moon was just rising over the Asian side of the Bosphorus. I spent a few minutes out on deck smoking. I peeked in the wheelhouse (had to take a look). The Captain even let me take his picture.
All the crew members were very good and friendly. You could tell they liked their jobs. I’m sure they probably get asked the same questions constantly (I started out on passenger vessels), but they never let it show.
They dropped me off at my hotel around midnight. I had a great time. If you ever get to Istanbul, check out Orient Bosphorus.
I’m running late today, so this will just be a short teaser. I’ll write more when I get in tonight. Yesterday, I went on a dinner cruise through the Bosphorus Straights between Europe and Asia.
It was a beautiful night and the cruise was very entertaining. With good food, company, music and dancing!
At least that’s what they all tell me.
All the men tell me.
I haven’t had so much male attention in ages. Not since the last time I was in Bali.😉
They all just loooove me. Less than 5 minutes after meeting me. We haven’t even got around to exchanging names. I guess the fact that I’ve told them I’m from Texas (they loooove Texas), and I’m here by myself, is enough to get their fantasies flowing.
I can’t help but break their hearts when I continue to insist that I’m not shopping. I’m not buying any more carpets. No, not even a small one. Or leather jackets. Or even their beautiful ceramics.
Even worse is when I tell them I’m just not interested in having any of their ‘Turkish delights’. No matter how much they insist I would love it and thank them forever.
I try to keep the right attitude about the whole thing.
But it does get annoying.
Topkapi Palace is huge! And still very crowded!! It was a cold, rainy, and all around dreary day-in the slow season and tourism down due to ‘recent’ terrorist attacks- but the palace was still full of people. I would really dread a visit during normal tourist season.😦
Pass through the impressive gates and security screening, and you’ll enter the First Court- the Court of the Janissaries. Aya Irini is to your left. It’s a large, old (540’s), Byzantine church. There’s nothing inside but pigeons, but the building itself is picturesque.
Walk along the pathways towards the Middle Gate and the Second Court (and another security screening). You’ll pass the turnoff to the Archaeology Museum about halfway down, on the left. IMHO, it’s much more interesting than the palace.
The kitchens will be to your right, they’ve got some beautiful examples of china and silver. No photos allowed in there (or in most other exhibits).
Walk through the ‘Gate of Felicity’ into the Third Court and you’re getting to the heart of the palace. This part was much more private in the past (but still loaded with tourists today).
There is a room full of ‘sacred’ items. Things like hair from the beard of Mohammed, his footprint, cloaks his important followers wore, models and gilded rainspout of the Kaaba (from Mecca).
The Watch Room was full of all kinds of intricate, gilded and decorated clocks. From large standing grandfather clocks, to tiny pocket watches. Most still working. All of them exquisite.
Another room full of beautiful arms and armor. Bows, spears, guns and suits of armor, inlaid with precious stones, marked with beautiful calligraphy. Swords of all shapes and sizes, including one huge sword that I can’t imagine how any normal sized person could use. It was longer than I am tall!
The famous Topkapi Dagger- studded with huge emeralds)- and all the other really good stuff- is kept in the Treasury, which was closed for reconstruction. If I had known that, I would have skipped the whole deal.
The gardens were pleasant and the architecture was impressive, with the pretty blue tiles and delicate paintings covering most interior walls. The view over the Bosphorus Straits was fantastic from the restaurant in the Fourth Court.
If you haven’t been before it’s worth spending a couple of hours (especially once they re-open the Treasury). I wouldn’t bother going twice.
Istanbul! What an exciting city! I hear the seagulls cry, the ships distant whistle, the calls of the street vendors selling roasted chestnuts and corn on the cob. I smell the sea air mixed with cumin, coriander, cinnamon and apples.
The sense of history here is intoxicating. The locals are used to it, but it amazes me to walk along the hippodrome past the Spiral Column sunk almost 10 feet down into the ground. The ground level of 2000 years ago.
I spent yesterday soaking up the history of this place. I started out practically next door to my hotel. Walking up the street to the Arasta Market and right next door to the Mosaic Museum.
Again, the mosaics were at ground level from 2000 years ago, so we walked along a platform to see them on the ground. Some smaller ones were mounted on the walls where we could see them close up. There were good explanations in English (and other languages).
Outside the Mosaic Museum is the Blue Mosque. Just across the street is the Islamic Arts museum. Pass by the construction in front of the entrance door and climb the stairs. Make your way around dozens of small galleries showcasing various ancient civilizations with an Islamic focus.
I was most impressed with the books (Qu’rans mostly). They were absolutely gorgeous! The fine, delicate decorations, the flowing script, the golden ink. The information cards listed the calligraphers (as they should), their work was simply stunning!
From there, cross over behind the Aya Sofia (museum) to find the Carpet Museum. This one was not included on the Museum Pass (85 TL for 5 days). It cost 9 TL. There were 3 galleries to look at. The carpets were displayed very nicely, but except for the 2nd gallery they were very short on information.
Outside the Carpet Museum is the main gate into Topkapi Palace. I managed to look at the Aya Irini (another old Byzantine church), and the Archaeology Museum before being chased out at closing time (5 pm).
The church is old and empty, you’re not allowed to go upstairs and there’s netting to keep the pigeon shit and feathers from falling on you. I would skip it if I was pressed for time. The Archaeology Museum is another story. It was very impressive!
There is a whole forest of ancient tombstones, columns, and statues outside. There are at least 3 different buildings to explore. The first one I looked at had a huge selection of tombstones and sarcophagi. It was very impressive. The detail work was amazing. Some of those things were huge! I wondered how many people did they put in there?
There is another building full of ceramics. It had a domed ceiling, surrounded by stained glass windows, and tile on the walls- some of them decorated with gold paint. How beautiful!
Each room showed the different styles of ceramic from different time periods and civilizations. Some of it was fairly crude work, some of it was extremely fine and delicate. I loved the beautiful swirling patterns of blue and white.
The last building I was able to explore was under construction. I had to walk through a long passage covered in white plastic. The actual museum started out with life sized marble statues of the gods. Artemis, Apollo and more.
They were setting up an exhibit with TV screens, ‘Are We Human’. It looked very interesting. I saw something about 2000 years of history in Aleppo, showing the latest destruction. I would have liked more time to try to figure out what was going on. There was something else about oil- ‘leave it in the ground’- which I really wanted to learn more about, but I was running out of time.
Upstairs, Istanbul through the Ages was a very thorough timeline of artifacts found nearby and more history of the people who lived around this area and Turkey. I was only halfway through the second floor when a guard told me it was time to leave (at only 20 til 5).
I’m finally out of the house and off on another adventure! I’ve spent the last couple of days on the road and have now settled in a bit in Istanbul (Turkey).
After a long flight (almost 13 hours) , and a loooong line at immigration, my driver was waiting outside the baggage claim to take me to the hotel. I chose the Osmanhan Hotel. It looked comfortable and convenient from the website. Also, not a chain, which is nice.
After 2 days with no sleep, I was too tired to do anything but hit the sack. The bed was very comfortable (pillow top mattress and down comforter). Sweet.🙂