“I think we will just relax today”…..NOT!!

We were both tired after our people-intensive time in Kars and had decided that, since we had four extra days in Istanbul, we would just spend the first day relaxing around the hotel.  However, by 9:00am we both felt that we couldn’t waste a single day in Istanbul so we headed out to the Blue Mosque.

We knew that it was close but weren’t sure if it was a straight walk or whether we had to navigate several small streets.  So, to be sure, we asked the man at the reception desk.  He looked at us and dryly said (put on your best Basil Fawlty impression when you read this) … “Turn right out of the hotel and keep walking”!”  ALL of the other hotel employees have been extremely fun and very helpful!!!

We followed his instructions to the letter and quickly arrived at the outer wall of the magnificent Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii).….._6106618

Unfortunately, every tour group and cruise ship group had the same idea!!  We stood in line to get a bag to hold our shoes, waited for the attendant to fix my scarf so that it covered my shoulders too and then entered this beautiful Mosque…._6106630_6106631

It was hard to take many photos so we didn’t stay long but we are planning to return early one morning before anyone else is up and about.  That is one of the perks of having a hotel so close!!!

Instead we headed down a “side street”, not really caring where we ended up.  We stopped to take a photo of this interesting house and it has now become our benchmark for where we are!!!


We next entered the Underground Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi).  Rick Steves describes it as “an underground rainforest of pillars” and that is a very good description….. _6106659

It was built in the 6th century and held 27 million gallons of water.  There are two stone Medusa heads that were recycled from earlier Roman structures.  One was on it’s side and the other was upside down….not sure why….._6106676We loved this sign….._6106688

and decided that they should give tickets for some of the outfits that the tourists wear!!!!!

However, you could never fault this guy’s sense of style……



Not a bad shot considering that I was holding the camera at my waist and clicking away!!


I loved the interior of this restaurant……_6106694

We ended up in a fairly deserted area but quickly realized that this was actually the Grand Bazaar which was closed on Sundays.   A “Shoe-shine” person walked passed and dropped his brush.  Michael kindly told him that it had fallen out of his box.  He then thanked Michael and “offered” to brush his shoes for free.  Now, we knew that this was probably a ploy, but as he wanted them done anyway, we let ourselves be suckered!!!!  And, as he related the story of his children’s upcoming eye surgery, Michael made the appropriate commiserating noises.


At one point he turned and spoke to me in Turkish.  When I didn’t answer he looked back at Michael  and said “not Turkish???”   That is the second time that I have been mistaken for being Turkish!!!!

There are tons of cats in Istanbul, most slinking around the table legs of outdoor diners, but there are also a lot of cute kittens.  This one obviously wanted his paws shined……


We looked up and realized that we were standing in the shadow of yet another Mosque.  As we walked up to it we found that we were at the entrance to the Grand Bazaar as well.   We heard one tour guide talking to his group and he said “Oh no, I just remembered that it is Sunday and the Bazaar is closed”.  I don’t know about you, but I would be a little frustrated if my guide “forgot” such an important detail.   We have now heard that he probably did this so that he could guide them to “his brother’s  place” who has good prices!!

The Nuruosmaniye Mosque sits at the gate to the Bazaar and is a hidden prize…..

_6106696We were greeted at the front door and invited inside.  At each of the Mosque’s you are given wraps if you are not dressed appropriately….ie head, shoulders and knees covered!!!

The greeter also told another family about the proper etiquette for taking off your shoes.   You slip out of your shoes before you step onto the carpet, but then you do not let your feet touch the ground after they are out of the shoes.  This can be a bit difficult if you are trying to step UP with the unclad foot while trying to get the shoe off of the other foot!!!!

The thing that was wonderful about this Mosque is that it was mostly empty so that we could enjoy it’s beauty and serenity!!_6106718

I love these large chandeliers.  Apparently they originally used candles in these and they were lowered to the ground for the candles to be lit.DSC03529Michael took a photo for one family and they kindly reciprocated….

I had read stories about the “pulpits” that were used by the Imam’s to preach their sermons.  They first were used when Muhammed  the prophet would preach to the masses of people and he needed to be up higher so that he could be heard.  Today, in deference to Muhammed, the Imam preaches from a position on the stairs rather than at the top.  Notice where the microphone is placed….DSC03536

I very much liked this embroidered tapestry piece….._6106729

and thought that this scene was very serene……DSC03538

As we were leaving the compound, we saw this washing area where the men will sit and wash their feet and hands before the go in to pray…..


We were feeling a bit “peckish” as we were walking back toward the hotel so decided to stop in at a small Doner Kebab joint and see what we could find to eat.  Fortunately, the menu had photos and English subtitles……DSC03545

….however we are a bit concerned about what “Return Chicken Portions” really are!!!!

The small shop had four tables and was just the right size for us.   We each ordered something different.   I had the Doner in half bread……..DSC03546

…which was spicy beef served with lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, pickle slice and, of course, cold French Fries.   Michael had the Chicken Wrap which was basically the same thing, but with chicken and a different type of bread.DSC03547

Doner Kebabs are a specialty in Turkey.  They are cooked on a spit over a vertical grill and the cooked meat is cut off so that the next layer can cook.  These are different from the ones in the US because the meat is not processed into a paste before it is skewered.  Instead, fresh slices of meat and peppers are layered together and then spitted.  The proprietor allowed me a wonderful photo op…..DSC03549

In the afternoon, we did some heavy duty Terrace Time, enjoying the sights of a Catamaran regatta off of the coast….._6106751

…..and, of course, the Blue Mosque in the near distance……_6106753

Even though we were not particularly hungry, we decided that it was time to eat.  This time we visited a restaurant that was suggested by the hotel.  It obviously catered to tourists so was not a true Turkish meal, however, the event was enjoyable.   We sat next to a young Australian couple and spent much of the evening talking with them.

One of the things that we had wanted to try was a Turkish whiskey called Raki.  It is served with a glass of ice water and when you pour the water into the Raki it becomes cloudy.  It was OK, but had a strong licorice flavor.  I am glad to say that I tried it…..

DSC03557As we were walking back to the hotel, we decided to drop in on the Blue Mosque again.  This time it was not nearly as crowded, but they were getting ready for the sunset prayer so we were not allowed inside.  Instead we sat on one of the side steps and just watched….


The Mosque is beautiful in the twilight……_6106777_6106781

And so ended the day of “let’s jus sit around the hotel and relax!!!!”

The day of a thousand good-byes!!!

Before I tell about this last day in Kars, I have to tell about our room last night.  The door had an alarm on it that would sound whenever the door wasn’t closed properly.    We kept hearing this alarm and thought that it was coming from another room but then realized that it was coming from OUR door!!!   It would go off and on at random times and we felt much like Phoebe on “Friends” when her smoke alarm kept going off!!! 

This morning was our last in Kars and we started it out with a wonderful breakfast with many of our new friends……


The conversation was wonderful and the food was amazing….

This is Bokek on the left and Pisi on the right.  They were both  types of fried dough and were delicious with cheese and honey.


These were the “condiments for the meal….honey, apricot preserves, butter, olives, cucumbers and tomatoes…..DSC03461

The all important cheeses…..Beyaz Peynir (the top white cheese and our favorite), Kasar  (yellow cheese) and Cecil (cheese like a rope)……DSC03462

But my absolute favorite for the morning was Kaymak which was basically clotted  cream (on the left).   Also nice was the whipped yoghurt with strawberry sauce…..DSC03463

I  greatly appreciated Duygu  who spent most of the morning writing down the names of all of these dishes so that I could get them right here……


After we had all eaten and drunk our fill we laughed about our body-mass-index and also our “balconies”…..that roll of fat that hangs over your stomach!!!  One person called it “Turkish muscles”!!

We exchanged many facebook names, shook many hands, kissed many cheeks and said many good-byes as we parted.  Earlier in the morning, I had complimented the ring that  Eiken’s was wearing.  As we were walking away, she came running over and offered it to me as a gift so that I would always remember her…..dont worry Eiken, I will never forget!!!!

We returned to Buyuk Kale Hotel and checked out.  The hotel had played the same 5 or 6 songs the entire time that we were there and we were glad to say good-bye to “Volare”, “Fly Me to the Moon” and much of  “Lord of the Rings” soundtrack!!!

We had been told that we had to be at the airport several hours early because we still had to pay for change in the ticket.  However when we got there, we were told that there wasn’t an agent at the small airport.   SO, the ever resourceful Muhammet got on his cell phone and was able to take care of the transaction for us.  We were so thankful to have people to help us.

Since there were now several hours before our flight left, they carried us back into Kars and we spent an enjoyable 2 hours at a local Tea Garden.   This was a magical place with tables spread throughout a park area.  DSC03475 Our tea was served in this two tier pot…….DSC03472

It was so relaxing to sit and watch families gather for picnics or to let their children play on the playground.   A perfect way to end our stay in Kars.

At the airport, we discovered the they board the plane in the same manner as the Chinese do…..the rush the gate when it is opened!!!   We met a very nice man who was in Kars for a business trip and he told us when they announced that the flight was going to be delayed.    He laughingly told us that we were in the “Right Country, but wrong City”!!  After we arrived in Istanbul, he offered to help us find a taxi but we told him that we had a driver organized.  We have continually found people to be very helpful and kind throughout this trip!!!!

As Michael was climbing the steps onto the plane there was a old woman who had a large bag and a large purse and she was obviously struggling to walk up the steps.  Michael reached down and took the bags from her.  She let him carry them all the way to her seat and was very appreciative.

The flight to Istanbul was comfortable and good food was served.  We were met at the exit by a driver who took us to the hotel.  He drove much of the time with his hands pointing at various attractions while he used his knee to steer.  Now, Jenny and I do this all of the time so that didn’t bother me so much.  However, when he kept turning around to talk to us while driving 60 mph, that was another story!!!

As we drove past one of the harbors, we could see hundreds of people having picnics in the park.  The cars were double parked all along the road and families looked like they were having a wonderful time.  There were many small hibachi grills being used and the smoke was everywhere.

We arrived at the Ibriham Pasa Hotel in the Sultanamet area of Istanbul and checked into our room.  

_6106765 We were given a cinnamon spiced drink that was very refreshing……DSC03493


The room is beautiful….DSC03495DSC03494

but what we really wanted was this magnificent view from the rooftop terrace…..


Sooooo many things to look forward to in the next TEN days!!!

Friday morning at the Mosque

This morning was my last in Kars so, as Michael left to teach again, I began my usual trek thru the city streets.  I was once again taken with the different clothing styles….everything from modern dress to women will Hijab’s around their head to women in full Burka’s.

I stopped at a couple of clothing stores and realized that they were “outlet” stores.  In most cases there was only one of each item and there were no sizes on any of them.  I looked but didn’t buy!!  As you can see, there is a HUGE range of styles……DSC03395

I was interested in the number of young people who were on the street this morning.  Most of them were carrying two papers with them.  The first was a certificate of some sort and the second looked like a report card to me.  I was never able to find out what this was all about.  You can see two of the boys holding them here….. DSC03401 Many students were getting ice cream from  street vendors.  I loved the long paddles that they used to dip the ice cream onto the cone……

DSC03407 At one point a long convoy of cars passed me, honking and holding colored scarves out of their windows.  One car (the one pictured here) had a man playing a drum and another playing a typical Turkish pipe.  I asked someone about what was going on, but no one knew…..

DSC03409 I enjoyed looking in the various shops that I passed.   I am not sure what these red “baskets” are but they were certainly interesting…..


I was also pleased to find the place that all of the men buy their “pork-pie” hats…DSC03417

As I passed one open door, I recognized that clatter of sewing machines in use and found these embroidery machines going full bore…..


As usual, I was highly attracted to color and loved these women’s scarves….DSC03425

I came across these goats outside of one shop….I dont think that it bodes well for them…..DSC03427

It was now about 11:30 and there was a short Call to Prayer.  I was surprised  by this since it was normally at 12:15.  However, I knew that all Muslim’s are required to pray at the Mosque at some point on Fridays, and I knew that the Noon service was the major one so I decided that the additional “call” was just an early reminder. 

So, being a good sticky-beak (the Australian term for a nosy person), I started making my way to the Mosque…..DSC03429 I took my usual perch on the stairs and just watched….

The first thing that I noticed is that there were many rugs on the concrete outside of the Mosque.  I remembered that  Muhammet had told me that people would pray outside once the Mosque was full.

I had some sweet interactions with some of the older men while I was sitting there.  One walked up to me and asked “English?”  I answered “Yes”.  Then he asked “Christian”?” and again I affirmed.  He then pointed to the Mosque and said “Muslim”.    Another gentleman motioned that I was welcome to join the service at the Mosque and another one insisted that his grandson greet me.  Another 20-something came by and offered to go and get water for me to drink.  They were all so kind!!

At one point an older man dressed in a long coat and different sort of hat walked up and into the Mosque.  There was much bowing and hand shaking as he entered.

Today I noticed that the women were not entering thru the usual entrance to the side of the Mosque but were apparently going in thru another entrance on the back side of the Mosque.

As I watched, there was a steady stream of men flowing out of the “cleansing”   area where they washed their hands and feet and into the Mosque courtyard.    There were a number of them who had obviously used their handkerchiefs to dry their hands and they carried them in front of their bodies as they walked. …I assume to dry them before putting them back in their pockets.  It was interesting to watch the solemn manner  in which they walked with them held in front.


I saw one ritual that I have not been able to find out about.  As the men would enter, there was a person who had a stick of something (looked like chap-stick) and he would place an “X” on the back of the entrant’s hand and then they would rub the back of their hand’s on their faces. DSC03438

As more and more men gathered, they started sitting outside as well.  I heard the microphone click on and the Imam began teaching, but the men just kept on talking with their friends.    As more and more men arrived, I moved further up the stairs to a more discrete distance.  

I would estimate that 1500 to 2000 men entered the Mosque while I sat there.  Since each one took off their shoes and put them on the shelf, I cant imagine the chaos when they all stream out of the Mosque at the end of the service!!!  One man brought his own bag to put his shoes in so I guess that might make it easier!!!

Once again, Michael called me to say that I needed to head to the hotel so I reluctantly left this peaceful courtyard…..


One funny thing that happened…….as I mentioned earlier, when I am walking around the city, I always carry my small point-and-shoot camera and normally leave it on.  I found several photos where I had accidentally taken pictures of my foot or hand….nice life line……DSC03439

I was met at the hotel by Dogan and Eiken and treated to yet another fabulous lunch.  It started with the usual salads and bread…..


….and went on to a wonderful meat dish served over cubed bread and with a side of yoghurt, called Iskender Kebap.DSC03448 It was magnificent and we truly enjoyed our conversation with this wonderful couple…..

DSC03450 As you can see from this photo, the interior of the restaurant was decorated to look like a cave and had recessed, lighted areas in the floor that held wonderful antiquities.

Michael returned to Kafkas University to give his last seminar of the course. 

IMG_1188 The students and faculty presented him with this beautiful Ibrik….now I just have to get it into a suitcase!!!!



When dinner time rolled around, we really were not that hungry so we decided to return to Semazen for another Pide.  It was just as good as the first time.

DSC03452 Before this arrived, the waiter came over and brought a napkin holder and set it on the table.  My thought was that we already had one!!  Then I realized that both would be needed to balance the Pide tray!!

Two young waiters came over and started talking to us in English and we had a wonderful time conversing with them.

When we were ready to leave we asked to take a photo of the Ayran “fountain” which keeps the yoghurt mixture frothy and aerated.  This young man offered to pose for us…..


Walking in the paths of ancient Armenians

On Wednesday afternoon we were kindly driven about 40 kilometers out of Kars to visit the ancient city of Ani.   It was an important city along the Silk Road during the Middle Age with the first human marks going back to the Neolithic Period.  It was once the capital of a medieval Armenian kingdom that covered much of present day Armenia and eastern Turkey.  The city is located on a triangular site, protected on it’s eastern side by the ravine of the Akhurian River, on it’s western side by the Bostanlar valley and on it’s Northern side by the Arakas River which also forms the border between Turkey and Armenia.

It was interesting, and a bit disconcerting, that we were looking directly into Armenia, including the observation towers where watchers were keeping tabs on the border!!

_6076419 If you notice the tall, snow covered mountain in the background….as we were driving I asked if anyone knew the name of the mountain.  There was a 5 minute conversation that started in English and then morphed into Turkish.  After a lull, Dogan said “We dont know!!”

We first walked thru the thick stone walls of the fort that protected the city……


We followed along the wall for a while……_6076417

….and then turned to look back to the rest of the city ruins (click on the photo to enlarge……


I was attracted by this arch…..

_6076434 ….but even more enamored after I saw what was on the other side….

_6076437 The ravine and caves were amazing….but little did we know that there were even more amazing ones to  be seen!!!

This was the first out-lying structure that we approached…..DSC03237

This is the Church of Redeemer and was built in 1034, but according to the sign, was “struck by thunder” (we think they mean lightning) in 1957 and was split in half.

…and then a little further down the hill…..

_6076459  This church was built in 1215 and dedicated to St. Gregory



There were wonderful  patterns carved in the stone on the outside…..DSC03264

….and beautiful paintings on the interior walls.  Although they were not in great shape, it was still amazing that they had survived in the open air of the crumbled church….DSC03269 I particularly liked the “dome” at the top of the church…..

DSC03257 We now had a choice of going down and back up or staying on the same level as our next sight.  Michael chose the path of MORE resistance, while I stayed on the upper level…..

DSC03281 It was at this point that we really started looking at how rugged the country was…..


The next building that we visited started out as a Cathedral but was later turned into a Mosque…..


The interior had huge columns made of two-toned marble….DSC03305

These were our gracious hosts…..Dogan, Ilhame and Muhammet…._6076515

They graciously waited for us as we took copious photos…..

_6076499 One of the last  structures that we visited was the Mosque of Ebel Menucehr, the first mosque built in Anatolia in 1072, and the only structure that had a Minaret….

DSC03311 It was perched on the edge of a gorge which meant that the views from the arched windows were beautiful……


Michael took this beautiful photo of a plant surviving in a very arid land….._6076560

There were lots of photo ops during the afternoon…..DSC03342 DSC03340 We were greatly interested in the caves along the cliffs.  Since they are so carefully shaped, we are sure that they  were man-made but who knows how long ago….


As we were walking along, I spied a small piece of pottery laying on the ground…..

DSC03354 The question is how long it has been there….maybe just dropped last week, but I would love to think that it was extremely old!!!

The final structure was Monument built to St. Gregory.…..


We loved our time in Ani….._6076567

Although it was very much in ruins, it still alluded to the grandeur that had once been the city of Ani…..


As we were walking back to the car, two little girls came up holding postcards and a couple of crocheted pieces for sale.  Michael bought one of the pieces for me and then asked if he could take their photo…..

_6076615 Those two could have probably sold him a bottle of water straight from the dirty river!!!!

We had an easy trip back to Kars but had one contra tempt when an old gentleman was hitchhiking along the road and walked all the way out in front of us to try to make us stop.  With that type of behavior, we were all surprised that he had reached such a ripe old age.

We also passed large herds of cattle, horses and sheep on the hills beside the road.  Each had one or more “shepherds” who were looking after the stock.  There are few fences so it was important for the stock-keeper to stay vigilant to keep them off of the road.

Our hosts tried desperately to feed us another meal, but we cradled our swollen stomachs and asked for a reprieve for the evening.

All in all, it was a good, good day!!!

Parallel & Perpendicular

When I walked out of the hotel this morning (as Michael left to go the University to teach) I was determined not to get lost!!!  Since the streets are in a grid format, I decided to not worry about which street I was on, but instead to remember if I was walking parallel or perpendicular with the street that housed the hotel and also to remember if I was on the front side of the hotel or the back side.  This was a much easier approach as I always knew at least the general direction of the hotel!!!!

I knew that I wanted to head back toward the market area of town and enjoyed walking along and looking in the various stores.  There were several people sprinkling or throwing water on the sidewalks.  I thought that they were just getting rid of their cleaning water, but I also saw one man sprinkling water from a bottle.  My only thought is that they were trying to control some of the dust from the sidewalks…..we will never know!!!

I stopped in one shop that carried all sorts of glass goods and cooking items….bowls, pans, etc.  The thing that caught my eye was a salt and pepper shaker that was an interesting design.   There were no prices, so I asked at the counter how much it was.  The two young men hesitated so I pulled out my small calculator and he punched in 15 but said 25.  I tried to ask which amount he meant but finally just gave him 15 Lira and he was happy with the transaction.

I found myself constantly looking down so that I wouldn’t stumble on broken bricks but stopped at one corner and saw this beautiful building.  I love the colors and they really stand out in this city…..

DSC03184 I passed the military post but didn’t linger (for obvious reasons)…..


I passed this large pile of firewood…..DSC03190 I looked around the corner and saw them chopping all of this by hand….what a job….


Here are a few street scenes from the market area of town where the shops spill out onto the sidewalk..….DSC03207DSC03201 I assume that they bring all of this in every night although that would be quite a big job!!!

I have passed many small vegetable markets but this was the first “dried fruit and nut” market that I had seen.  I love that the proprietor is sitting on a bag of something….


As you can imagine, this display caught my eye!!!!DSC03212 The fabrics were  beautiful colors and were a heavier fabric.  I didn’t buy any here because we have a guide to take us thru the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and she is a textile importer.  I figure that she can help me with fabrics there!!!

I ended up at the tourist bureau…..

DSC03405 Interestingly, there is no tourist information there but there was a lot of fun children’s art….


I especially liked these weavings…..DSC03216

Some of the art was more sophisticated…sorry for the angle on this photo!!DSC03220

And obviously, they had done a class in paper marbling.  There were some wonderful examples of this technique……DSC03223 

Once again Michael called to say that he was on his way to pick me up and this time, thankfully, I knew where I was and how to get back home again!!!!

Dinner with “the kids”

On Wednesday night we were invited to have dinner with two of the PhD students and one of their girlfriends.  They are 24 and 25 years old, thus they are “kids” to us!!!! 

Orkun met us at the hotel and walked with us to Esma’s apartment.  His girlfriend, Emel, was there as well.

When we arrived they offered for us to sit in the living room but we asked if we could watch them cook instead…..


They prepared a vegetarian feast for us!! 

DSC03168 We had individual servings of a mixture with tomatoes, eggplant, onions and spices that was served with peppered rice.

The dish in the center starts with a very fine grain that has tomatoes, mint, onions and lots of spices added to it.  We ate it by placing this mixture on lettuce leaves and then rolling them up.

The white bowls contained yoghurt and cucumbers with dried mint on the top.

It was all delicious and we ate until we couldn’t move!!


After dinner we had Baklava with ice cream and then Emel offered to make Turkish coffee…..


Before we left, they gave us three wonderful gifts…..a can of Turkish coffee, a set of coffee cups and a big platter of Turkish delight!!!

and then they kindly walked us back to the hotel……..



Shopping and getting lost in Kars

On Wednesday morning, Michael left to travel to the University and I set out to explore Kars so I walked out of the hotel and turned right…..or was it left!!!  I was determined NOT to get lost….oh well!!!!

I love to just walk along and observe the shops and people, although these children mannequins kind of gave me the willies…..

DSC03111I looked into a Sweet Shop that had all sorts of Turkish Delight and many boxes of chocolates too.  The next shop that I saw was a Men’s clothing shop where they would custom make the suits.  There was one man sitting at a sewing machine and an entire wall of suit fabrics.  By the way, the favorite suit fabric is black or grey and shiny.

I love just going into stores to see what I can find and the first one was interesting.  It had three sections…..beauty products /laundry detergents, jewelry and finally, auto repair/home improvement.  Quite the combination.  I did find this tape that was strange…..it was aluminum foil that had a sticky backing on it…..DSC03112

The next store that I entered sold all sorts of cooking utensils, from pots and pans to mixers etc.   Most of the pots and pans were sold in sets and looked like this…..


There was a huge selection of teapots.  They are always two levels…the bottom holds water and the top has the tea…..DSC03115

Oh yeah, when I am walking around, I dont carry our big camera but instead use my Sony pocket camera.  It is much easier to take surreptitious photos or photos on the fly as I am walking by.

I finally figured out that “Giris” means enter and “Cikis” means exit.  This was learned by much trial and error!!!!

I saw two fish markets that didn’t have a single fish in them.  So far no one has been able to tell me why!!!

I especially enjoy visiting grocery stores and was astounded by the selection of pasta, rice, bulghar and lentils.  It goes to show the Turkish love affair with Carbs!!!….DSC03117

Apparently if you by a bag of tea, you get a glass mug along with it…..DSC03118

I really liked this statue…..

DSC03119 …..and this water-less fountain……

DSC03121 There are two different types of bakeries here.  The first cooks the most wonderful types of bread…..

DSC03152 and the second one cooks sweets….baklavas and other similar items.  I passed one of these shops and decided to go in for a “Turkish Donut”.  It is basically fried dough that has been soaked in a sugar solution…..


I had planned to take it with me and eat while I walked, but the proprietor motioned for me to sit and eat so I did.  Here is a shot of his shop. Doesn’t it all look SO good……DSC03132  I asked the locals about whether they cooked these sweets or purchased them and was told that the older women still cook them but most people purchase them.

As I walked I could easily tell which were the “up-market” areas and which were for the working people.  I came across an outdoor market and decided to buy some cherries.  The little boy in this photo helped me and the older man tried to speak to me in English.   They thanked me after I took their photo.  The older man has his hand over his heart which is apparently a sign of blessing…. DSC03136 We have been told that having a haircut is not just a need but an experience!!   I could always tell when there was a Barbershop because there would be a wooden rack on the street with towels drying on it.

I found the clothing store that I had seen before and checked out the dresses that I had liked.  Unfortunately they did not have sizes that would fit me.  The only thing that was in my size were the less fashionable and dowdy shirts!!  I also checked out the men’s clothes and noticed that dress shirts were of three types…. solid (white or light blue), stripe or garish plaid.

I came across another Mosque that was being built.  This one was on top of a parking deck.  It is certainly bright and shiny!!!!…..DSC03137 

Now by this time, I had made a lot of turns and was completely lost!!!   I ended up in an industrial area that had lumber yards, automotive shops and such….DSC03139

And of course, this was when Michael called to say that they were on their way to pick me up from the hotel.  Oops!!!!    I kept heading in the direction that I felt was right and finally caught sight of the Castle at the end of one street….HOORAY, now I KNOW where I am!!!!

I was picked up by Michael and Ilhame and taken to another wonderful restaurant called Semazen.  We started with Lentil soup and breadDSC03141 The soup was spicy and WONDERFUL!!!!

Michael ordered Ayran (the yoghurt drink) and it was served in this gorgeous copper cup.  We are going to look for these in the Istanbul market and try to bring a few home!!! DSC03142

Ilhame suggested that we order Pide and it came out on a long wooden platter that was sat on the napkin holders and filled the length of the table……DSC03146 It was a thin dough with pieces of spiced beef pressed into it.  We ate it by adding some of the condiments (spiced yogurt, roasted peppers or tomato and cucumber salad), folding it over and stuffing it into our mouth…..

DSC03149 It was SO SO SO good and we both ate until we couldn’t move

Lake Bird Paradise

We were picked up at 3:00pm by three PhD students and driven to Kuyucuk Lake where there is a bird tagging project going on

We stopped for gas at a large station on the outskirts of town.  Immediately a young boy appeared carrying 5 glasses of juice for us to enjoy.  I initially thought that it had been ordered by one of our hosts but saw him run out to a car that had just pulled up as well.

The head of the project is Sedat Inak who is a PhD student at Kafkas University in Kars.  He is extremely knowledgeable and has an obvious love for these beautiful creatures.……_6056302

He is collecting and banding birds at three locations in Turkey and is looking at the diversity of birds and also how and where the move.    He is also on the lookout for endangered species and is looking for ways to conserve the habitat.

This particular site is located about 40 kilometers outside of Kars and is a beautiful area.  He has already found around 360 species of birds in this one spot.

When we arrived there was a flurry of photographs with everyone wanting to have their photo taken with Dr. Arnold (with him is Mohammet, Orkun and Dogan)……_6056290

….including ME……_6056289  We hiked to the observation tower……_6056299  ….and began looking at the birds on the lake……


Sedat could easily identify each of the birds and would tell us about their habitat and other interesting information.

I loved this apple……


There were LOTS more photos taken.  Mohammet had a new camera so he tried every setting and lens.  Here I am with Esma.  We are both laughing because she is standing on her tip-toes….._6056320 

We met two very interesting couples from France who were volunteering with the program.    This couple own a farm in France but came here for holiday……._6056329

This couple were very interesting.  They are living nomadic lives, traveling where there are volunteer projects that they can be involved with.  He is an engineer working with water purification projects in Africa and she is a Forester.  They were such fun to talk to……_6056359

This is the camp set up.  They sleep in tents or on bunk beds in the stone building.  The portable building is where they cook and do the tagging._6056328  _6056364

They normally open the nets early in the morning before the sun is up and then close them mid morning.  They are re-opened around 6:00 and closed after sunset.  However, since we were coming they had opened them early and had caught two birds for us to see.

The tags are store on long ropes and each one has a number etched in the metal.  There are different sizes for each type of bird._6056357

Sedat carefully banded the bird….._6056353_6056355

He blew on the chest feathers and would look for the amount of fat on the bird and assign a number from 0 to 8.  He told us that the birds would add fat when they were getting ready to migrate so that was a good indicator to be noted.  He said that the fat was yellow in color so it was easy to determine.  He then took lots of measurements of the wings and body length._6056336

And finally weighed the bird by putting his head into a cardboard cone.  Immediately the bird would become stiff and stay still while his head was covered……_6056342

Look how carefully he holds the bird and how relaxed the bird is….._6056346    The second bird that he tagged was a Sedge Warbler and when it was time to release it, he handed it to me.  He showed me how to carefully hold its neck between two fingers and then cradle it with my other hand.   And then….viola it was gone……._6056358   If you know how a cat will shake his leg when there is something foreign on his paw….we figure that the little bird is shaking his leg trying to figure out what is going on.

We then walked around to see some of the nets.  The first one was set up on dry ground and was for smaller birds and had much smaller openings in the netting.  _6056367

The second net was set over water and was designed to catch the larger birds.  (you may have to click on the photo to actually see the net)_6056371 

While we were at these nets, there was a lot of yelling from the camp and Sedat used his binoculars to see what they were saying.  Apparently a large bird (a Harrier) had flown into one of the nets but had escaped…..too bad….it would have been fun to see!!!

We ended the afternoon all sitting around an talking.  Everyone was so kind and answered our millions of questions and it was so fun to realize that we were part of this very special group….._6056384 DSC03108 DSC03109 DSC03110 We arrived back at the hotel around 8:00pm and Muhammet called to say that he needed to meet with us.  He told us that his wife, Hulya, was having complications with her pregnancy and that the hospital here wasn’t prepared to take care of her.  So, they were getting ready to travel to her home town where the medical care was better.  Unfortunately this is a 13 hour drive!!!!  Since he was not going to be here we decided that it would be best for us to leave Kars early (once Michael finished teaching on Friday) and travel to Istanbul.  We confirmed that our hotel would be available for the extra days and then asked the hotel staff to help us change our airline reservations. 

As of the writing of this post,  Thursday morning, we have heard that they arrived safely and that Hulya is in the hospital.

A morning in Kars….

On Tuesday morning, Michael was picked up by one of the students and driven to the University to teach his course.  I grabbed my stuff and headed out to explore the city of Kars.

I didn’t have a map of the city and was worried about getting completely lost, so I got onto Google maps and drew out  a map for myself, showing the main streets and also wrote down the name and address of the hotel just in case I had to catch a taxi back home.

My first destination was the Kars Citadel that is located on the edge of town but only a few blocks from our hotel.    It was built in 1153AD and substantially repaired in 1579….just a few years ago.

As you can see, it is almost straight up hill!!!_6056112

I shared the path with this older gentleman and his two cows who would stop to graze the grassy areas.  I love his umbrella……_6056126 

I have noticed that when I am sightseeing by myself, I look at things in a  different way and notice things that appeal to the quilter in me.  Consequently, one of the first photos that I took was of this wonderful door…..I can definitely see a quilt in that design…._6056134 I am also enamored with windows and doorways…..

_6056152 I also could see making a quilt with some of the windows, with these flower seed pods quilted on them…..


I slowly climbed this set of 37 STEEP stairs to reach to top most level….


As I climbed up and especially down these steps, I thought of my friend Lyn who is currently hiking the Appalachian trail.  If my thighs are this sore after 37 steps, I cant imagine what she is going thru!!!!

This is the view of the city of Kars from the top of the Citadel….._6056163

Unlike in the US, there are NO railings or safety guards on the property so I had to be VERY careful while taking photos.

I love the bright splash of color that comes with the Turkish flag…..    _6056183

….and especially when viewed thru a window….._6056194 I also found the old rusted door hinges to  be interesting…..


Here are a few more windows/doorways that I found interesting…_6056206 _6056212

This is the view to the back of the Citadel….._6056220 As I walked down off of the upper levels, I visited the snack bar and found this wonderful device sitting on a table.  There is a wood fire in the bottom chamber, water in the large urn and tea in the little pot on the right.  Copious amounts of smoke were pouring out of the upper pipe……


As I watched, the proprietor picked up this contraption by the wooden handles and carried it over to a group of men sitting under an umbrella.  He originally sat it down under the umbrella, but the area filled with smoke and all of the inhabitants started coughing.   He quickly moved it  onto a table not under the umbrella……._6056233 

What happens is that the steam from the urn filters into the two appendages and that keeps the tea pot warm.  Muhammet said that this system gives the water a slightly smoky flavor that is very nice….._6056237

You also need to know that the Turkish tea  is brewed to be VERY strong and most people add a bit of water to the mixture.  Thus the need for the water and spigot.

As I was exiting the castle, I stopped to look at the tomb of  Jalal Baba.  There was an older man there who was in charge of the tomb who shook my hand and said “Englais?”.  I said yes and then looked into the tomb.  When I came out again he pointed to the name “Jala Baba” and  he took his hand and slashed it across his neck to indicate that Jalal had been decapitated…..an effective way getting his point across…..

I had passed three young girls (maybe 14 years old) dressed in school uniforms.  The first time that I saw them I said hello and they tittered after we had passed.  A few minutes later I saw them coming toward me again and I heard them practicing  English phrases before they got to me.   We had a short but very sweet conversation where one of them told me “Welcome to Turkey”!!

In the same vein, as I was walking thru one of the Mosque areas, a young boy and his Dad were sitting and waiting for the Prayer time to begin.  The father asked if I spoke English and then motioned for his son to speak to me.  The boy shyly said “hello”.   I asked him if he spoke English and he moved his hands to say “so-so”.   I then asked him his name.  He told me (Muhammet something) and I told him mine.  Then, almost simultaneously, we both said “It is nice to meet you”.  Both the boy and his father beamed with excitement that he had known what to say. 

I then walked further down the hill to the “Church of the Apostles” which I talked about in a previous post, but was able to get a better photo of it….


A bit further down the hill took me to the Grand Mosque which is the largest Ottoman-era mosque in the city and was built in the 17 century.  It was severely damaged in the 1870’s but was restored and reopened in 2009………_6056252 

I couldn’t enter the building,  but did surreptitiously take a photo looking inside one of the doors…… _6056254  

I like this photo that shows the two older gentlemen praying before they enter one of the side doors….._6056269 _6056273

As the time neared for the mid-day prayers, I found a place to sit on some steps and just observe the comings and goings. ….._6056276

I saw that the women entered using the small door  on the right side….they are not allowed to pray with the men and must be kept separate.

The men  would go under the porch entrance, take off their shoes, and place them on shelves located against the wall.

As time drew near, more and more men entered the courtyard and began filtering into the Mosque.    There were mostly men, but they were all ages.  Many of the older men wore suits while some of the younger ones were more casually dressed.  Some wore hats of various types including a “skull cap” and almost all carried a set of prayer beads in their hands.  Many would greet their friends with a 3-cheek kiss or would place their hands on their hearts.  Most would raise their hands in a supplication pose before they entered the Mosque.  I had planned to wait until the Call to Prayer began, but Michael called and said that they were on their way to the hotel to pick me up so I hurried back to meet them.

Muhammet, Hulya, Michael and I went to yet another restaurant (Ani Ocakbasi) and tried a different style of Turkish cooking.

As usual, it began with a wonderful bread….. DSC03100

….followed by the usual series of appetizers.  Today we had spicy Bulghar, red pepper puree, spiced yoghurt and tomato and cucumber salad……DSC03102 On difference this time was that the waiter brought olive oil and Pomegranate Molasses to pour over the tomato salad.

I dont remember the name of my dish but it was basically a kebab made from beef and lamb.  This had been rolled in a thin bread and then sliced into bite-size pieces.  It was wonderful with the yoghurt and bulghar.DSC03103

Michael had the kebab meatballs that were very similar to our first meal in Istanbul…..

DSC03104 And just when we thought we had enough food, the waiter brought out this huge, air-filled  bread loaf…..


We waddled our way back to the hotel!!!!!

Work and wanderings….

Monday was a full day for Michael as he taught a two hour class in the morning and then visited possible field sites in the afternoon.  I enjoyed tagging along as he and Muhammet became more and more animated and excited about the potential for future collaborative research……


In the morning, I took a stroll in the area surrounding the guest house and ended up on the Veterinary school property.  I enjoyed watching a “cowboy” as he tended to his young calves….

_6046038I stopped numerous times to take photos of the wonderful wildflowers that were growing along the road.  Muhammet explained that, rather than spend a lot of money on landscaping, the University had decided to allow the natural growth to take over.  The result is slightly rustic but pleasing…..



As I wandered in the other direction I passed a private school and walked into a residential area which had a number of apartment complexes.  It was fun to see the small children playing on the sidewalks and to hear the children playing in the school yard.

Speaking of the school, this morning early we heard the murmurs  of  children and realized that this school was adjacent to the guest house.  The students lined up and did a series of things, including chanting, singing and listening to someone talk.

As I walked, I passed this interesting tree which Michael has now told me is a Paper Birch……


I loved the texture of the trunk, especially as layers peeled off….


….but what really caught my eye (pun intended) were the EYES that formed when the tree branches were cut off from the trunk…….

_6046067It was so cool but I am sure that all of the neighbors wondered about this crazy woman taking close-up photos of the tree.


Muhammet and Hulya picked us up for lunch and took us to a Government run restaurant that is available for government workers in the area.  The menu is set each day and you are immediately given your food.  

We started with a Chicken soup, followed by several appetizers and ending with a main course of meat with tomatoes and vegetables served over Bulghar…..DSC03083 The white mixture is yoghurt with herbs and cucumbers in it. It was creamy and very tasty.

After lunch we went to a cafe for dessert and drinks.  Muhammet ordered an array of deserts all of which were delicious…..

DSC03087 We enjoyed a rice pudding that was very creamy and covered with chopped pistachios (as was everything).  The “U” shaped pastries were a type of baklava and the others were fried bread that had been soaked in a sugar solution.

The last stop was to a bank.  As we entered, Muhammet punched a button and got a number.  We then sat in chairs and waited our turn……

DSC03090The electronic sign told which number was being serviced, which teller window to go to and which floor the window was on.   It was very efficient and although there were 20 people ahead of us we only waited for a short time.

We had been having some issues with the guest house concerning hot water) so at 9:00pm Muhammet suggested that we move to a hotel that was in Kars.  So, we packed up our suitcases and moved!!

There was a band playing on the top floor of the hotel so we went to sleep to the strains of Turkish pop music and were awakened at 3:30am with another call to prayer.  We have now discovered that we are just a few blocks from the group of Mosque’s where I did the video so that is why we can hear it so clearly…especially with the open windows!!

By the way, Muslims pray 5 times each day….just before sunrise (hence the 3:30 awakening), at Noon, around 4:00, at sunset  and then around 9:30.