Homeward Bound

I woke up this morning humming “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and  “Homeward Bound”, so I guess you can tell what this post is about!!!

As we waited for the breakfast buffet to open, we had to take  a few photos of the lobby DSC04928

and this wonderful Sultan’s chair…..


We said Good-bye to our favorite waiter who grew to know exactly how we liked our tea and coffee and exactly how many we would drink of each.  He would also run to get bottles of water anytime he saw us leaving to go out walking!!!!DSC04929

With Turkish coffee, there is always a bit of sludge in the bottom of the cup and the trick is to learn to stop ONE sip before you hit bottom…….DSC04931

Alternately, you have a glass of water at the ready for clearing the sludge taste from your mouth!!!!!DSC04930 

Before we leave Istanbul, let me mention a couple of other observations that haven’t made it into previous posts…..

When the Imam’s are doing the call to prayer there are normally no pauses between the lines, but at the Blue Mosque, they pause after each line to allow the other nearby Mosques to “answer”.   We likened this to the “GEORGIA”… …  “BULLDOG” chant that is heard on football Saturdays in Athens!!!!

Also, I mentioned earlier that we had been enjoying watching several baby seagulls.  The older “child” was located on a roof across from our room and we loved watching the movements of “Samantha” (we decided that she was a girl) and her “Parentals”.   On one of our Terrace Times, we were watching as she started flapping her wings and leaping higher and higher into the air.  Then, as we watched, she took off and flew to a neighboring roof.  Immediately she was followed by both of her parents and they kept watch and protected her as she rested and prepared for the next flight.

We wondered the next morning if we would see her again, but sure enough, she arrived on the roof, demanding food and attention (typical teen-age girl)!!!!  We enjoyed watching as she continued to grow and find her wings and especially enjoyed seeing how the Mom and Dad Seagulls responded!!

We  took a taxi to the Airport, checked in with our THREE bags (two at 50 pounds and one at 52 pounds), and boarded our plane. 

We had a comfortable flight into JFK, enjoying the extra legroom with the Emergency Exit seats, and arrived almost an hour early.  We were concerned that we would have to sit on the plane while waiting for a gate to open up, but instead they brought busses out and took us straight to the Passport control area.

We cleared customs, found our gate and grabbed a bite to eat before the next, very short, flight into Atlanta.  That flight also landed very early!!!  We were met, in our car, by Brian and Amber, dropped them off at their apartment and then made the one hour trip home.

We both slept well.  However we both woke up in the middle of the night and, after much thinking, were happy to realize that we were in our own bed, in our own house!!!

This trip has been a wonderful mix of rural and urban, work and play,  spicy and sweet (food that is), and  friends, both real and Facebook!!!

We hope to return!!!!!

Look what we did!!!!


We had two goals for the day.  The first was to get our suitcases packed for our return journey and the second was to find a Lahmacun restaurant.

OK…..first task… PACK.    Let me say that as we shopped in the past 9 days, we would put the bags under the bench in our closet.  There was a large paper bag sitting in the front and the other bags were hidden behind it.  You know….out of sight, out of mind!!!!

This was my first hint that we might be in trouble…DSC04812

After we laid it out, we KNEW that we were in trouble!!!….. DSC04814

I had brought an extra duffle bag that could be used as a carry-on but we were worried that: 1)it wouldn’t hold everything, 2) it wouldn’t be easy to carry, and 3) it would be considered too big for carry-on baggage.

So, Michael got onto the Delta Frequent Flyers site and found, much to our glee, that as a Silver Medallion member, he could check two bags for free.

This called for a quick tram ride to the Bazaar area and the purchase of…..DSC04817 ….a suitcase even bigger than our first two!!!

So, after two hours of careful packing, we ended up with three suitcases and everything packed.   We even found a little bit of spare room….more about that later!!


Now that the packing task was finished, we figured that we could spend the rest of the day wandering around Istanbul some more.  We had loved our time at the Spice Bazaar, so headed that way again.DSC04819 

After looking for a while, we decided that it was time for tea and coffee so we stopped at the shop we had visited yesterday and asked the proprietor for a good place to go.  He directed us to a small “walk-up” cafe on one of the side “streets” of the Bazaar.   We chose to sit outside and enjoy the drinks……DSC04824

….and this view of the backside of the New Mosque……DSC04822 

We started walking down one street and came across this wonderful statue…..

DSC04825 which indicated that we had entered the fabric and garment district.  I spent a few minutes looking around but didn’t find much to buy.

We were ostensibly trying to get to a small Mosque that was listed in Ricky Boy’s (our name for Rick Steves) book.  We didn’t have a map but were sure that this was the right place…..  DSC04829 

But alas, when we finally wound around and found it, we were disappointed to find that it was a warehouse/shopping area.  DSC04832

The next decision was whether to continue to look for the suggested Mosque, but tiredness won out and we simply wandered back toward the tram line.

We walked down one corridor that I named “Party Central” because every shop sold decorations and items needed to throw a great party.     I even found out that these red “baskets” that have fueled my imagination are actually used when women have Henna Parties (where the tattoos are applied).DSC04833

I had wanted to eat Lahmacun one last time before we left Turkey, but had found that it was hard to find a shop that served it.  Apparently this is because Lahmacun is considered to be a fairly low-brow food that “good people” wouldn’t eat!!  We had seen a couple of shops in one area as the tram passed, so we walked back there and found such a shop.  As we looked at the menu, we were surprised to see the cost was 2.5 Lira ($US1.30)!  So, for 11 Lira ($US5.50) we had two Lahmacun, Shepherd’s salad (tomatoes, cucumbers and basil), wonderful bread and drinks…..Low Brow indeed!!!!


Since we were back on the tram, we decided to travel past our hotel and visit the Grand  Bazaar one last time

Besides the wealth of goods to purchase, I am totally amazed at the architecture of the building…..DSC04840 DSC04842

While walking along, we found the PERFECT item to fill that little bit of spare space in the suitcase……a Nargile of Michael’s very own!!!! 

We got ourselves COMPLETELY lost in the Bazaar but finally emerged to walk back to the hotel, and buy a dress for me.  After all, we needed something soft to wrap around the water pipe!!!

We returned to relax at the hotel, but there was still one thing that I wanted to do and that was to spend some time in the  Blue Mosque.  Since it was about an hour before the afternoon prayer, I was hoping that the tour groups would already be gone.  Fortunately I was right and there was no line at all to enter the Mosque!!!

I spent about 20 minutes just standing at the back of the building and observing.  As always, I noticed the arches, domes and light……DSC04844

…..SO many cool shapes and colors…..DSC04845DSC04854 I also watched as one man went thru his prayers, moving thru these positions…..

DSC04848 DSC04849  








There were several Fathers and Grandfathers teaching their children or grandchildren how to pray.  This young man was dressed for the occasion… DSC04864

I loved the design of the chandelier……DSC04868

Almost every inch of the Blue Mosque is covered with tiles or windows…..DSC04874 DSC04877

I reluctantly pulled myself away from this peaceful place and decided to hit one last souvenir shop.  I was glad that I did because they had little spoons to go with the tea cups that I bought and heaven knows that you can’t drink Turkish Tea without the little spoons to stir the sugar cubes!!!!

For our final meal in Istanbul, we decided to return to  Buhara 93 and enjoy the wonderful bread and food one last time…..


Michael enjoyed another Pide……DSC04894

…..while I had the Beef Shish (K-Babs)…..DSC04895

Yes Ricky Boy, we recommend it too, but maybe with a corrected spelling!!….DSC04897

We relaxed on the hotel terrace one last time and enjoyed watching as the sun slowly sankDSC04899 

I love how the last rays of sun light up certain areas of the scenes…..DSC04911   DSC04917 DSC04919

And then, at last, the sun was gone and it was time for our journey to end……DSC04924

Foodie tour of the spice market

On Monday morning we were met by Kathy again and headed out for our “Foodie tour” where she had promised us that we would “graze” our way thru the Spice Markets…..YUM!!!!

We took the tram to Eminonu station and walked past the “New Mosque” which was where we had gotten lost  several days ago.

There was a huge plaza filled with pigeons and, of course, there were vendors selling trays of bird seed……


I had wondered about the Doner Kabob restaurants that dotted the area.  Did they make their own meat layers or did they buy it pre-made.  This photo seems to answer that question……DSC04684

As we entered the Spice Markets we were greeted by the  cacophony of smells and the usual mixture of shops with each having a specialty…..

……olives  (didn’t know there were so many kinds)…….DSC04686

……sausages…….DSC04687  …not sure what I like best in this photo…..all of the many nuts for sale or this guy checking out his hair in a shop mirror……


….lungs, stomach or feet anyone???………


….spices and grape leaves……DSC04693

…henna for a tattoo party……DSC04694

….special ingredients for teas…….DSC04697

…..or Turkish Delight!!!…….DSC04699

The Spice Market was originally a medicinal market and this was one of the first pharmacies.  This gentleman is qualified to dispense herbs and other medicines…..DSC04701

Not far down the corridor we entered this wonderful shop and spent about 30 minutes buying all sorts of delightful things……DSC04703

He had huge slabs of Turkish Delight….the red one is Pomegranate based….DSC04705

The proprietor carefully bagged up our choices and then vacuumed sealed them so that they could enter the country.  Here he is dishing up a bag of dried figs…..DSC04709 When I pointed to tea leaves and said that I wanted to purchase some, he pointed to a bag and said that it was better quality AND cheaper, and was what the local’s would buy.

This is a shot of one of the corridors of the Spice Market.  Interestingly, we were confronted with hawkers much more here than in the Grand Bazaar…guess we looked hungry!!!!


The next stop was to the shop that, according to Kathy, has the best Baklava in town.  If nothing else, they certainly have the best selection!!!!!DSC04720 

We picked out our choices and headed upstairs to enjoy our treats with some hot drinks.DSC04721 They were all very sweet and very yummy.

I loved this Turkish Coffee container…….DSC04725

We moved out of the Bazaar building and walked along the paths to see the outside stores.  This may look like nuts, but it is actually pet foods…..DSC04733 

…and medicinal leeches of all sizes are available…..


….and this garden shop sells seeds and onion sets……DSC04735

We continued walking and ended up in the fish marketplace which is right on the bay.  I loved the way these fish were artistically displayed…….DSC04743

I was also impressed with the disposal system of water channels that ran from the shops and out to sea…..  DSC04745

At this point it had been about 15 minutes since we had eaten so Kathy proclaimed that it was time for more food.  Fish this time.  She ordered a plate of  Hamsi (Sardines) that were being freshly fried as we watched…….DSC04754

We sat at our table, complete with newsprint placemats and looked at this huge plate of fish.DSC04747

What to do….what to do…… make sardine sandwiches with a leaf of Rocket, a slice of onion and a squeeze of lemon……DSC04750


Here we are before starting the feast…….


As we waddled away  we passed two noteworthy items.   The first is a tea tray that I have described in earlier posts.   These are used to ferry cups of tea to the various shopkeepers……DSC04756

I also liked this well-used scale and weight set……DSC04757

We ambled further along and ended up in a hardware area and found these bags of wonderful colored powder…….DSC04764

Kathy explained that this is how paint is colored.  You buy the base paint and then add your own dye powder.    I’m sure that it makes for some interesting colors……DSC04765

In preparing for our ferry ride to the other side of Istanbul, Kathy suggested that we purchase a Simit to feed the seagulls with.   Knowing how good they are, it was very hard not to eat it myself…..DSC04766 We once again hopped on the Ferry and headed across the  Bosphorous Strait to the Asian side of Istanbul.  Kathy pointed out various landmarks as we sailed, including this hospital where Florence Nightingale served during the Crimean war…… DSC04775

As we were coming into port, I saw a streak of grey moving in the water and realized that there were several dolphins gamboling around the ship.   As they continued to play, more and more people moved to our side of the Ferry and the mood lightened visibly.  Nobody can be mad when dolphins are around!!

Since it had now been over 30 minutes since our last food ingestion, Kathy suggested a fun spot for a touch of something to drink.  She and Michael both had coffee, but I opted for lemonade that had mint in it.  It was cool and very refreshing .  Besides, who can say no to a curly straw!!……DSC04780 We sat in an upstairs room that had interesting, eclectic furniture…..DSC04783 DSC04785 We walked past this tray of stuffed mussels and asked Kathy if we should try one.  She smartly talked us out of this particular tasty treat….. DSC04789

OK, walk for 10 more minutes and then stop at the CIYA Cafe and have another meal.   Kathy ordered mezze (appetizer) size servings of several items …..DSC04792

…..well, TEN items to be exact……


We enjoyed eating out of  metal bowls and trying various Kurdish delicacies such as Meatballs and Cherries, Stewed Artichoke, Yoghurt Soup with Meatballs, Bulghar Balls, Stuffed Grape Leaves, Stewed Spinach, Yoghurt, Celery Root and Stewed Beans.

At the end of the meal we were brought glasses of lemonade and fruit juices to finish off the dining experience. DSC04798

And in case we were still hungry, Kathy took us past the “Roasted Sheep head” stand……. DSC04799 …and thru the pickle shop featuring everything from Oranges to Pine Cones….DSC04800

At this point, we were ready to sit and relax and quickly found a Nargile shop where we could do just that…..and smoke a water pipe at the same time.  Kathy sat with us for a while and, after making sure that we knew our way back to the dock, said goodbye.

As we walked back to the dock, I saw several men selling little slips of paper.  I found out the next day that they were lottery tickets!!!


It was extremely windy and I can’t imagine how he kept them from blowing away!!

As we traveled back to our hotel, we discussed the fact that we really enjoyed the Asian side of Istanbul more than the European side, probably because it is so much less touristy!! 

The day ended with the requisite “Terrace Time”!!  We needed all of the rest time possible because tomorrow WE PACK!!!!

Of Bells and Chants

On Sunday morning, Michael and I took the tram to the  Bosphorous and then grabbed a ferry to cross the Strait, placing us on the Asian side of Turkey….that’s right, one country, two continents!!!

We stepped on land, took a photo and said “Welcome to Asia”!!!


We were met there by a contact name Nick who is from the US but is studying in Istanbul and involved with the local Presbyterian Church.  We also met a group of students who were spending the summer in Bulgaria but had come for a visit as well.

Once we were all there, we walked about 15 minutes and arrived at  “All Saints Moda Kilisesi”DSC04632

This small church was built in 1878 ….DSC04613

and had beautiful stained glass windows in the front.DSC04616It was a small church, with just 11 rows of pews that would hold about 90 people.

We had wondered if the service would be entirely in Turkish and these two items were hints that we might not understand much…..DSC04617

However, the pastor (Turgay) worked hard to help us understand the gist of what was being sung and said.   As the hymns were sung, he would walk down the center aisle toward the back where the “American’s” were sitting and would begin singing the songs in English.  

The service began promptly at 11:00am with the chiming of the church bell and  chanting  by a young man with a wonderful voice. 

It continued with haunting singing, some of which had a “Gypsy” feel to it.  Several of the songs started out slowly but then got faster and faster as they repeated the verses.  There was a lot of swaying and holding up of hands.

The lyrics were shown in the Order of Worship and were actually easy to follow, but they sang too fast for us to really keep up.  Interestingly, we found that pronunciations’ basically followed the spelling so that it was easy to follow.

When Turgay preached, he would switch to English every so often to catch us up!!!  He also paced up and down the aisle as he spoke and made eye contact with everyone in the congregation….no sleeping allowed here!!!

At the end of the service, they did a special recognition of all of the Father’s in the congregation…..including Michael.  In this photo, Michael is receiving a red rose from a little girl (maybe 4 years old)……



After the service was over, we walked down the road and found a place to eat lunch.    The restaurant had an Western feel to it, but not in the same manner as the touristy joints closer to our hotel.  Instead, it seemed to have been westernized for the Turks to enjoy.   We both had Kabobs with some of the best French Fries that we have had in a long, long time…..DSC04622

We were supposed to be back at the church at 2:00 and had some extra time so we walked past the church and on down to the seaside and found just what we wanted…..a coffee/tea cafe.  And, even better, it was outdoors and we could enjoy the bay views……DSC04631

We returned to the church at the appointed time and listened while Turgay talked to the other group and told them about the history of the church and the ministries that they were involved with.DSC04651

While we were listening we were brought delicious cups of Turkish tea and sipped happily as we listened.   At one point, a big cat wandered in thru the side door and  slowly made his way around the pews.  I lost sight of him and was startled when he rubbed up against my foot!!!

Turgay wanted us to learn about the Muslim faith and understand the differences between it and Christianity so he organized a question and answer time with the Imam from the neighboring Mosque.

Once again, we entered a serene, beautifully adorned building….. DSC04655

We were told that the women did not have to wear head coverings, but I did anyway. 

The first thing that they did was to read two related passages from the Bible and from the Quran.  The Imam had to dress in his special attire  and retrieve the Quran from a special place before he could read the text to us…..


He told us that the Quran is written in a poetic style which makes it easier to memorize.  When it is read, it is in a sing-song chant format.

He also told us that he had attended an “Imam High School” where he received training as a Muslim leader.  He did not attend seminary, but the younger Imam’s were receiving additional education now.

It was obvious as they talked that the Imam and Turgay were good friends and each had a respect for the other one.DSC04660

I asked him a question about the “Call to Prayer”  and he told me that the same words are said each time…..

“Allahu Akbar”    (Allah is Most Great)  – recited FOUR times.
“Ash-hadu an la ilaha ill-Allah”  (I bear witness that there is none worthy of being worshipped except Allah)  – recited TWO times.
“Ash-hadu Anna Muhammad-ar-Rasoolullah” (I bear witness that Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah) – recited TWO times.
“Hayya ‘alas-Salah”  (Come to prayer) – recited TWO times.
“Hayya ‘alal-falah”  (Come to success)  – recited TWO times.
“Allahu Akbar”  (Allah is Most Great)  – recited TWO times.

In the Morning  Prayers the following phrase is added:
“As-salatu khairum minannaum” –  (Prayer is better than sleep)  recited Two times.

He also told us that the cadence  and tune is set, however you can hear that everyone has their own embellishments!!!    He told us that either the Imam or the Imam’s helper is the one to make the call to prayer.  He then demonstrated….


Sets of prayer beads were scattered around the mosque.  The Imam told us that there were 99 beads in the set, one for each name of Allah.  I had seen shorter sets that had 33 beads on them so I guess that you go around 3 times…..


I thought that this window was beautiful…..DSC04665 Before we left,   Turgay and the Imam called for a group photo…..DSC04670

We walked back to the bay and caught the ferry back to the European side of Istanbul.  As we were traveling we could hear the 5:30 call to prayer from the many mosques all over the city……DSC04678 

We returned to the hotel and did a little bit of “Terrace Time”.  Another wonderful day!!!!

It’s My Birthday and I’ll shop if I want to….

On Saturday we had two things to celebrate.  First, it was my birthday, and secondly,Michael was finished with all of his work in Turkey and could spend the last few days being a tourist.

As we talked about what we wanted to do, I suggested visiting the Suleyman the Magnificent Mosque and Michael suggested visiting the  Old Book Market.  Since you had to walk thru one to get to the other, we figured that our itinerary was set!!!

The book market was an interesting place, but there wasn’t a lot for us Non-Turkish speaking patrons.  DSC04501

…but it was still fun to look……DSC04505

Once again, I was enamored with the fountains and wash basins that appear when least expected.DSC04506

The most interesting thing is that all of these basins are fully functional and are used by one and all…..DSC04507

After leaving the book market, we kept walking past Istanbul University and ended up in an area of town where tourists are not abundant (ie….our favorite type of sightseeing).

We passed a  store that sported shelves of bags of bling….snaps, mirrors, beads, etc and also had these industrial quality “Be-Dazzlers” out front…….DSC04512

When I looked inside, I could see hundreds of drawers, each showing a different type of button, bead, closure or bling. DSC04514

I was in heaven as I open the drawers and took a few here and a few there.  Each of the bins had a different price on them and I felt that I should keep them all separate, but the shopkeeper motioned for us to keep them together and gave us a bowl to put them in.  I thought that he was just going to weigh them all and charge me one price for everything.

However, when I had finished, he poured them in a bag, sealed it tight so that nothing could escape and then motioned that there was no cost.   When we protested he said “just a little money” and smiled.

DSC04513  It is once again an example of the kindnesses that we have been shown from the Turkish people!!!!

We now found ourselves in an area that held kitchen supply stores and happily made our way into one to purchase tea cups (well, actually glasses).  The shopkeeper was very helpful although he spoke only broken English.  He was confused when we kept saying that we were looking for saucers to go with the tea cups, but once he figured out what we wanted, he kept saying the word “saucers” over and over again.  Unfortunately, we had taught him to pronounce the word with a good Georgia accent!!!! DSC04516

He showed us the book that he is using to learn English and we enjoyed our few minutes with him.

We continued down the road and ended up in a shop that sold kitchen equipment.  This time we were in the market for a Turkish teapot.  I found one that I liked here but we didn’t want to carry it with us for the rest of the journey so asked if we could come back and pick it up later.

We continued down the street and entered the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent…….DSC04550

It is a beautiful Mosque, with lots of bright pastel colors.  Most of Mosque’s are decorated with blues and this was so refreshing……DSC04527DSC04532

I loved this photo showing this woman sitting and reading the Quran.  The fencing separated the worshipers from the tourists…..DSC04529

Most of the Mosque carpets have subtle lines in them but this one leaves no doubt as to where you should sit and which way you should face!!!DSC04540

Once again, I am enamored with the arches, windows and light…..


As we were leaving we passed the Men’s station for cleansing…..DSC04521         

We found a great place to view the Bosphorus and I loved the juxtaposition of the blue sea and the domed buildings…..DSC04549  

We returned to our “teapot” store and this time met, not only the proprietorDSC04566 but also his cousin who was currently living in New York.  We were offered tea and immediately a boy came in bearing tea cups for all of us.   We had a great time talking to the two cousins and were pleased with our purchase of a two-tier teapot.

As we were getting ready to leave, I asked them where they would go to eat in the area (ie….somewhere that would not have a lot of people like us) and we were immediately sent to a small cafe located about a block away.DSC04563

As we walked up to the front door, we were welcomed in with big smiles.  We selected our four dishes from the “buffet” table and then went outside to find a place to sit.  Before our food was delivered, a waiter came out and brought us cups of ice cold water…..DSC04561

….and then moved the umbrella over so that we were completely in the shade.  I wonder if they are as kind to all of the patrons as they were to us!!!!

The bread was already on the table, served in a big plastic box…..


My first thought was that it would be really stale, but it was extremely fresh and soft!!

Our food arrived and we happily munched on Meatballs with potatoes, Eggplant casserole with meat, Green Beans and Chick Peas…..DSC04558   Everything was wonderful and we left with our bellies full and our wallet only $12 smaller!!!!

Walking back, we spent a few minutes looking into the various stores that lined the street.  Most of these stores specialized in one particular item.  This store specialized in light bulbs……DSC04565  while this one sold rolls of clothing labels.  These were mostly fabric care labels, size labels and other things that we couldn’t read…..DSC04567

We returned to the hotel for a rest time and then decided to take the tram to the harbor area and then walk across the bridge to the Asian side of Istanbul  (the Bosphorus Strait splits Turkey into a European and an Asian side).

There were hundreds of people fishing off of the bridge DSC04578and I loved the innovation that led to this creation….DSC04573 

After we crossed the bridge, we walked a bit along the sea side and observed the birds, people and vendors.  This guy was selling “Simit” which is like a bagel except that the dough has been dipped in Grape Molasses and then rolled in sesame seeds.   It is slightly sweet and I have enjoyed part of one each and every morning at breakfast…..DSC04583

As we were walking along one street, we heard yelling and looked up to see these boxes being hauled up to a third floor window…..DSC04585

The “receiver” of these goods started to unload them but the entire load began to shift…DSC04586 There was much yelling, but the result was inevitable….DSC04587 Fortunately it looked as if they were filled with Styrofoam cups so hopefully the damage wasn’t too bad.


In order to get to and from the tram stop, you had to use an underground tunnel.  I was surprised to find that this was just another mini market with stores carrying an amazing array of goods…….DSC04592 DSC04595

It seemed that most of the people buying here were locals and not tourists.

As we returned to our hotel, we decided to stop at a nearby cafe for dessert….Baklava, tea and coffee.  Who needs Birthday Cake……DSC04596

And finally, as we rounded one last corner, I succumbed to a store that I had been eyeing off for several days.  Thus came the purchase of my birthday present…. DSC04600

We ended the evening with a few more hours on our terrace…..DSC04601

It was EXACTLY what I wanted for my birthday….a fun day spent with my best friend!!!!