Monthly Archives: March 2013

Just Cats – but the story is below this

Finding the post office leads to the market

My mission this morning would be to find the post office. I got the English/Turkish dictionary out, wrote down post office in Turkish and showed it to Ibrahim, in the hotel reception. He slapped the palm of his hand on the top of his other hand. Didn’t know what that meant so I had him write it down on my notebook. I went to my favorite restaurant and asked the waiter where it was and showed him the notebook with the words.

“It’s here.” He said this in Turkish but I understood his gestures. But that restaurant wasn’t the post office so I continued down the street. I found a young lady who explained it was three blocks away, and she walked part of the way with me until I saw the building. Turkish people are so helpful and kind. I think the gentleman in the hotel wrote down the name of the street but not the directions to the post office. No wonder the folks in the restaurant were confused.

 

After mailing the letter, I found an open market which I saw for the first time today.

There were fish stalls, vegetables and fruits, even some that were new to me, spices and herbs, knock-off perfume shops, toys, clothing and a long enclosed area with only shoes. There were flowers, tea and coffee shops back to back, candy, bread and pastry shops.

Right at the beginning of the market was a church and I went inside. A woman was sitting inside and smiled at me. I took some photos and she kept pointing to other potential shots, so I shot away.

 

grape leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Turkish coffee

 

 

Mr. and Mrs. Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lady at the flower stall told me to give her money for a photo. Not about to give money to someone on a public street selling goods. I wouldn’t take a photo of her inside a shop if she said no, but outside is fair game.

I’m certain the street sellers get tired of people with cameras, and I do understand that, but it can also help their business, as well.

Again, as I have mentioned before, there are cats everywhere. They seem to be well-fed. Today, not only did I see cats, but two ducks that sat together on the sidewalk. Later they waddled down the street.

I stopped at a typical kiosk for Turkish coffee, and I finally had a chance to see how it is made. The coffee seller put two scoops of ground coffee in a copper cup with a long handle, and then water over that. He then put the little copper cup next to fire coals until it boiled. He put it in a tiny cup and served it to me, with a tiny box of Turkish Delight candy and a carton of water.

Later at lunch time, even though there were kiosks of all kinds, I wanted to sit down inside, eat and rest, so I found a restaurant with a server who seemed mad and unhappy. He didn’t say much. I just pointed to what I thought was chicken kabob and rice. Turned out it wasn’t chicken but something rolled in a batter and fried. What I thought was rice was some kind of sauce. It was all a mystery.

While I walked through the town, I came to a clean street of tall apartments and houses.

A gentleman saw me and began a conversation about the street. “This area consists of very old families that go back 200 years,” he said.

Some families are from Greece, he told me.

“Are you Greek?”

“No, my grand parents came here from Yugoslavia.” The gentleman spoke good English and has lived in Manhattan, New York. He complained about the graffiti on the buildings and said the area is never kept as clean as other neighborhoods.

He had someone bring me a little glass of tea.

“Oh, I didn’t ask for that.”

“It’s our hospitality. Just enjoy it.”

Then when I got ready to leave, he asked one of the street workers to pose with him for a photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destruction: the camera and the street

The streets surrounding the Konak Otel (the O is correct) is undergoing street re-construction (or destruction). When I came back from Izmir, the streets were  mushy under my feet in mud. It was raining, but work must go on.

Today  and everyday since, big equipment has taken over the streets and the stones are being ripped out. I don’t know the plan for reconstruction, but I do know it’s noisy and dirty and dangerous to walk down the street while being chased by a bull dozer.

But the good news is, the staff in this hotel is awesome and I like everyone of them.

Reception man, Ibrahim watching the work outside on the street

Never in my life has anyone ever made my bed; and I’m enjoying the service of the maids.

I leave to go someplace and when I come back the room is clean and the bed is made, and there are fresh towels.

Today I took a ferry ride over to the European side of Istanbul and then got into a taxi. I told the driver I wanted to go to the Media Markt. He told me there were several. “Which one do you want to go to?”

“The closest one.” He stopped at a fancy hotel and asked the door man, who was dressed like a prince in tall hat and long coat, where it was.  He gave the taxi driver some information.

The driver said that would take 40 minutes and in bad traffic.

I said okay, clearly knowing he didn’t like the idea at all. I showed him my camera and told him it wasn’t working and I wanted to buy one just like it. He drove aways and then looked at me and said, “two minutes.” He turned the taxi around and back we went. I decided to go along with him, but knowing when we got to where he wanted to take me, I could leave and get another taxi to take me to Media Markt.

So in about five minutes he stopped the taxi, told me to follow him and I did. He took me to a passageway that had several camera stores.

I paid the driver and he looked happy to be relieved of the ordeal.

I went into one shop and caused a great deal of laughter when the salesman showed me an updated version of my camera, and I asked him for a better deal. “For an old lady.” That’s always good for a laugh.

He told me if I walked down the street, turned left, there would be a store owned by a Chinese man who could probably fix the camera. Well I have done the research and learned that once a camera has been dropped on hard concrete, and no longer functions, it can be fixed, but it would be cheaper to buy a new one.

So, not wanting to learn anything new, with another camera, I left. But I saw a camera shop down the street  and went in.

I showed the camera and told the salesman that I wanted the same camera, and he had one. I paid what he asked, but the gentleman gave me a card along with it. I know I paid a bit more than I would have in the U.S., but I need it for the two more weeks I have left, so I plunked down my visa card and now the camera is mine.

The salesman put the strap on the camera and hung it around my neck, telling me not to drop it.

I didn’t stay long on that side of Istanbul because I wanted to get back and get the camera up and working. The manual is in Turkish…big joke on me. I sent my English manual to my son, Larry, who has been putting all that I send him into my car. I’ll have lots of stuff to look at when I get back.

But, not to worry, the camera is working great.

When I got back to the street under destruction, I caught hotel employee, Sinon, with a pick pulling some rocks away from the hotel, and Engin watching the action.

Sinan (left) and Engin looking like street workers when they should be inside the hotel

 

 

 

I can now say thank you without stuttering

Tesekkur ederim – I have finally learned to say thank you without stuttering and hesitation. No one laughs now and everyone says your welcome right back.

I’m thankful that I know how to say it properly, because I have much to be thankful for.

Life has been pleasurable since being back in Kudokoy – Istanbul, at the Konak Otel. (leaving an ‘H’ out is correct).

The folks who keep the Konak running smoothly are so good to me and make me feel welcome, as if we were a family.

One corner of the Konak Otel lobby

Beginning with breakfast: hard boiled eggs, two kinds of olives, two kinds of white cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers and bread, right from the bakery. Turkey folks usually drink tea, and when Turkey coffee isn’t available it is Nestle’s Instant. I’m getting used to that more and more everyday.

My favorite restaurant, Murar Muhallebicisi, is about two blocks away and in spite of its busy business, the waiters are professional, friendly and helpful. My favorite waiter greets me with palms together at his chest as if in prayer. This morning, he also ‘high fived’ me.

Favorite restaurant, favorite waiter

Today after a long walk the opposite way of my usual path, I stopped at Murar Muhallebicisi and had a rice pudding, that was delicious. I wish I knew how to make it as well as they do. Then at the deli, I asked for two dolmas to be packed up to go.

The dolmas are grape leaves stuffed with rice and some seasoning I couldn’t name, but delicious.

Since dropping my camera, I have looked for a shop that would sell the same camera, and instead, people have sympathized and looked at the camera, but couldn’t do anything about it.

Then I did find a shop with a Canon, but the cost is prohibitive, so I’ll continue to do my best with the camera in the two weeks left of this long journey and be grateful for the blessings I’ve had along the way.

Turkey has so much to offer. The people are friendly, helpful and appear to be professional. The waiters in most restaurants wear uniforms made up of slacks, white shirts, sweaters and ties. Many men on the street are dressed in suits and carry nice briefcases.

Cats are plentiful, as I’ve noted before, and dogs laze around on streets, asleep right in the general pathway.

Today I heard a young man shouting and carrying a sweet bread-like parcel on his head. He smiled and stopped to allow me to take a photo.

 

A bread head

I also took a shot of a man getting his shoes shined. He stopped me to talk a bit, and I was surprised to hear him speak in Dutch. He’s Turkish but has a textile business in Holland. He is leaving tomorrow.

The shoe shine apparatus is made of brass and every shoe shine man has one. I’ve been told they go back in history and is a Turkish tradition. There are many shoe-shine men on the streets and most always appear busy in their occupation.

Shining shoes

On my walk, I was close to a Mosque while the invitation to prayer was sung and amplified, and men were walking into it for prayer.

It’s a busy city with a lot going on, and I’m enjoying every minute.

 

 

Finding the city a lot of fun

Sad today: I dropped my camera and now the photos are blurry. The long lens works a tiny bit better than the regular close shots. I have two weeks and three days left until I go back to America.

The good news: I’m back in Kadikoy where I started my time in Istanbul. The hotel is small and not too expensive, and kept clean by some awesome maids. One of them knocked on my door and then came in to hang freshly laundered curtains. Then her coworker knocked on the door and I told her to come in. We joked about having a party in my room.

Then I took out the computer and we began translating back and forth in English and Turkish, using a translating program.  It was fun. We laughed a lot. They were sympathetic about my camera and told me to ask the man down in reception.

After they left, I did go down to the lobby and asked the gentleman. He told me I should go to the European side of Istanbul to some shops there. I went up to my room and thought about it. I don’t think it would be good for me to spend more money right now on a camera. So I’m going to do my best with what I have. I’m so disappointed in myself.

But, in the light of that disaster, there is still the city to see, so I took another long walk through a different neighborhood. I find kitty cats wherever I go, and while some look healthy, others look hungry and a bit worn out.

There are many engraving and printing shops, cell phone stores, book stores galore, and several small hotels on nearly every street in the business district and too many coffee shops to count. Those serve mostly tea and Turkish coffee.

Young men are often seen in the streets carrying two-tiered platters of tea to various businesses in town. It’s common to see tea drinkers just about everywhere.

I’ve noticed that every restaurant, big or small, they place handy wipes on a separate dish. I think it might be a good stock investment in that type of business.

Bakeries flourish here, with loaves of bread and sweets of all kinds, as seen in the windows.

One type of bread in the window of a bakery that makes only this type

Kiosks on the street sell a bread-like snack. Candy stores sit next to the sidewalk with Turkish Delight candy, nuts, and other types of goodies.

I’ve seen people pulling carts of vegetables and fruits to their kiosk, probably to another neighborhood.

Greens are healthy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fruit markets galore

Cars are everywhere and drivers are impatient. When they have to wait someone begins to honk their horn and then others follow in a chorus. The noise competes with buses and the ferry’s that come in to pick up commuters. And then there are the five prayer calls a day over a loudspeaker. Birds of all kinds are plentiful in the city. Pigeons, seagulls and another kind of large bird land on tree branches right by my window and  tell people off with their noisy chatter.

Today when I took a photo of a doorway in the center of a mural, I walked across the street and asked a gentleman if it was a restaurant. His answer in English surprised me.

The church inside this door

“It’s a church.” He said it was used by the Seventh Day Adventist and another sect which I don’t remember. “Are there other churches in Istanbul?” “Yes, about eight right here in this section.” He mentioned that most services are conducted in the Turkish language. but there is one that is in French.

All-in-all, Istanbul is an exciting, bustling city and interesting place to spend a day.

 

 

 

Good customer service makes me happy

Okay, now I’m over the toilet seat calamity and onward I go. I’m in a different hotel which is about 70 percent better than the one I left.

Why are inexpensive hotels dirty? There are maids that clean the rooms, just as there are maids that clean expensive hotels. I’ve been in both kinds and now I know the problem.

It is called, MANAGEMENT. The other two words are called CUSTOMER SERVICE.

If you’re in business and you don’t have good customer service, then you don’t have a thing to boast about.

Okay, enough of that. I got a taxi to a large mall today, just to stay busy. I fly out tomorrow and I’m near the airport and far away from any interesting tourist sites, and it’s raining and thundering, as well.

The taxi driver was very nice.

When I got to the mall, I began to feel dizzy. I found a restaurant and ordered some good nutrition and gulped down two large glasses of water. I think I was dehydrated. It took about twenty minutes and I was fine again.  Good lesson, here: stay hydrated!

After I looked at the stores in the mall, and didn’t buy anything, but heard American music with the lyrics, “Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh.” and “I have a place in mind. I have a place in mind. I have a place in mind,”  and other jumping and jiving rap stuff, I figured it was time to leave.

I must say, even though the experience in Izmir, after leaving Andy, wasn’t what I expected, it wasn’t harmful, and makes an interesting story. Two out of five days were awesome. Tomorrow morning, I will be back in Istanbul,  by Pegasus airline.

Now it is the next day:

I’m in my hotel in Istanbul – Asian side – and when I walked in,  the front desk guy and the three maids were sitting in the lobby, and they were all happy to see me. Before going to the hotel, I stopped at my favorite restaurant and the waiters greeted me with with good humor, as well.

I flew on Pegasus. It is a fairly new airline, and covers most of Europe. It is growing larger by adding more stops.

Okay here’s the deal: I spent over $90 on a ten and one half hour ride on a bus to get to Izmir, and on the way back, I spend about $30 on Pegasus and it took 55 minutes.

It’s nice to be back here in Istanbul.

How did a toilet seat change my plans?

It wasn’t the dirty walls, the spikes stabbing me from the mattress, or no top sheet – just a dirty smelling wool blanket, or not because there was no toilet paper, soap or a towel.

No, I left the hotel in Kusadasi for the final provocation…I slipped off the toilet seat.

The seat wasn’t attached, it was just sitting there to fool you into thinking there was one.

I slept under three dirt-smelling blankets, wondering how many people before me fell under the smell. And I had one more night to go.

In the morning, I had to ask myself: is this what I really want? Does this demonstrate the self-respect I have worked all my life to earn?

Besides that, it was pouring down rain, and that doesn’t usually thwart my plans, but since the only recreation was to walk fifteen minutes to the beach, and with a ghost town beach waiting for the clean-up crew to spruce it up for the summer season, I said,

“NO! This is not what I want.”

Two views from the balcony of the 'Toilet Seat Hotel."

 

I put everything into my suitcase, stumbled down the four flights of stairs, knocked on the door at 9 a.m. when the young lady studying tourism was still asleep, and handed her the key. I wanted to be civil about it, so I simply said I needed to leave.

 

 

 

“I’ll call my father about returning your money.”

“Okay, I’ll wait right here.”

She came back about ten minutes later with news from her father.

“He said not to give you your money back because we gave you a special price.”

“Wow! A special price?”

“Yes, do you want to stay?”

“No, I want to leave…and then I got my dander up. “The room is dirty, the curtain is taped to the wall, the bathroom needs work and the walls are filthy and the blankets need to be washed.  I cannot stay here.”

She looked shocked and didn’t say anything. So I added, “You are going to be in the tourism business, you must know better.”

She and I said goodbye, and I left to catch a bus.

I got off at the bus stop and saw the light change, so I began to walk across a busy street and from the other side three rows of cars were coming at me. I stopped, turned and walked back to the sidewalk. Then I walked the other way to the bus station.

There I saw a man near just the very bus I needed to take to Izmir. He smiled and stashed my suitcase in the luggage compartment while I purchased my ticket.

When the bus left, the man smiled at me and put his hand on his heart.  My day just got better.

Plan B would be to go to the airport and see the possibility to change my flight ticket from Sunday to today or tomorrow. Fussing around at the airport after a thirty minute drive in a taxi, I found the right window. The agent said there wasn’t a chance to leave before Sunday.

So I got another taxi, with a driver who didn’t know where the hotel was, but finally got me there, and because I was one day earlier than my reservation, I was lucky to get a room.

On Sunday, it will be five days that I left Istanbul and my hotel there. I’ve paid for two hotel rooms for five days. The reservationist in the new hotel in Izmir called the guys in Istanbul and told them I’d be there on Sunday, and they said my room is waiting for me and not to worry.

I won’t;  the seat sits firmly in that hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT NEEDED!

No Greek Island for me this year. It was a change-all morning; you know – those days that seem to go wrong from the moment you wake up?

It took an hour to readjust my attitude, and now I’m okay and will enjoy the experience that awaits me the rest of the day and for three more days.

NO PHOTOS – INTERNET DOESN’T WORK ALL THE TIME.

I bade goodbye to my nephew, Andy, his good friend, Ozkan and the many waiters at the Sisim Restaurant last night (Wed). Andy was first to say good bye, for after dinner he went on to his hotel, and Ozkan went with me to my hotel by taxi. Ozkan went inside to make arrangements with the hotel staff to call a taxi for me in the morning for the bus that would take me to the harbor and where I would leave to take a ferry to a Greek Island.

 

Before I went to sleep last night, I booked a hotel on the Samos Island, and a flight out from Izmir to Istanbul (Asian side) where I left the rest of my ‘stuff’ in the Konak Hotel. I also booked a hotel near the Izmir airport so it wouldn’t be too complicated to get the flight out early in the morning.

But this morning, from the moment I woke up until now – I faced obstacles. First, I couldn’t find a stocking, and then found it. Then after breakfast I went to check out and my credit cards were nowhere in my wallet. I went upstairs and emptied my purse and there they were. They had fallen out. The linings inside the purse that I had acquired in Spain, have ripped apart and now there are more compartments and I can’t find anything in a hurry.

Last night Ozkan worked hard at getting the folks in the lobby of the hotel where I stayed to understand where and when I needed a taxi, and that didn’t happen this morning. The man didn’t seem to know anything about it.

And then when the taxi came, I couldn’t find my ticket to the bus – it, too, had been trapped inside one of the linings. (Oh, did I tell you that I dropped the camera yesterday?)

Then the taxi driver kept asking me where I wanted to go, of course, in Turkish.  All I know how to say is thank you, and even then, I have to think hard to pull it out of my brain.

But he did get me there and when I walked in about five people were standing there laughing at my confusion about when the bus would come and where I should wait. I didn’t think it was funny…not one bit.

So I arrived at my destination on the bus – Kusadasi – where I would go to a travel agent to book the ferry to the Island. That’s when I learned there wouldn’t be any ferry’s to Samos Island until March 23rd.

I went to an outside restaurant and got the computer and the wifi up and working, through the help of a nice young man, Baris. He wouldn’t quit until he had it up and running. He even got some help and I went to work. I first canceled the hotel in Samos, and learned I wouldn’t get all of my money refunded because I canceled it without a seven day notice. This was on www.adoda.com. I do not recommend them.

If you don’t have transportation to your hotel, then give the money back.

I picked up my computer and put the translation service to work and when Baris understood my dilemma, he handed me a card.

It was a card about the  “pension hotel” on Women’s Beach. Well, heck that sounds good enough for me. So he called and got the price and a taxi for me. The taxi cost one half of the amount of one night stay…rip-off.

So here I am now, up on the fourth floor of a room with a lumpy bed, dirty walls and curtains that are plastered to a wall by scotch tape.

But the young lady, Gulay, who’s father owns the house, is very nice and helpful, so that makes up for the lack of ambiance.  She goes to the university and is studying tourism.

It should be an interesting two days, and who knows, maybe after a 15 minute walk to the shoreline, I’ll see Greece.

A bit more: The bus from Istanbul to Izmer cost nearly seventy euros for a ten and one half drive, and the airplane flight will cost only thirty and will take a little over one hour.

Izmir…finally!

A typical tray of Turkish coffee, with a glass of water. Under the lid is a small bite of Turkish Delight candy.

 

 

It was a wild night inside the Sisim Restaurant on the Harbor in Izmir, Turkey. A soccer game between Germany and Turkey was on, and I’m not sure how many screens, but plenty, and every time the Turks made a goal, the entire restaurant filled with men hollered with great glee.

Glee? That’s putting it mildly, because when Turkey won…it was bedlam. Men jumped up, grabbed each other, circled around and around, arms in the air, hollering and screaming. Soon cars began to circle outside of the restaurant with horns bleating and flags waving.

It often causes me to wonder, how in the heck did I wind up here?

The day for me began early in the morning, in a bus on the way to Izmir from Kodokoy, in what I thought would be a five and one half hour ride, but it took twice that long.

I boarded the bus and unbeknownst to me, that was just the first bus, for we got off at another station and boarded the real bus. We drove through villages and cities, mostly in rain and then met snow in the mountains.

A woman in back of me realized I didn’t speak Turkish, so when we boarded a ferry, to cross the Marmara Sea, she encouraged me to get off the bus for fresh air. She nearly poked holes into my eardrums with her friendly chatter. Her family immigrated to Turkey from Poland a century ago, which explains her blue eyes and light hair. She was delightful.

The bus takes a ferry across the Marmara Sea to Izmir

To answer the question, how did I end up here, begins with my nephew Andy. His job as a technical manager for a printing machine company in Germany, requires lots of travel, including his favorite place…Izmir.

Andy flew in from Germany at 8 p.m. I got into my hotel around 7:30 p.m. Andy and his best buddy, and customer, Ozkan Kacemer, with his wife Hatun Gul Kacemer, picked me up in a taxi and we arrived at Sisim to the greeting and hugs from the waiters of the restaurant.

Andy is a regular at the restaurant, and has been for several years. The waiters treated us like celebrities, spoiling us. I didn’t know what was in some of the small dishes they first put on our table, but they were perfectly seasoned.

Then Andy picked out a fish and it was grilled to absolute perfection. The waiter carefully deboned it near our table and placed a portion on each plate, along with some vegetables.

After dinner the waiter brought more dishes with a variety of fruit, stuffed dates, a tiny individual cake, and other goodies. Then a very special treat was delivered from the kitchen just for us. It was a mound of something with cream inside and chocolate dribbled on top of it. I honestly do not know what it was, but I’d like some right now.

The night was fun, as it usually is with Andy around. Ozkan speaks fluent German, and Turkish, as well. He was brought up in Germany by Turkish parents, and when they decided to return to Turkey, he came with them. He had little Turkish language skills, but speaks well now without an accent.

So there I was, among the Turks, listening to Turkish, German and English, and a room full of hollering men.

Then while we walked over to get our ride, a man with a drum stopped us and banged on it a few times, while another man with a horn blew it right into Ozkon’s face, until he gave him a tip.

What a night…and my time here isn’t over yet.

 

"Hello stranger"

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now in Izmir

It took 10 1/2 hours. I thought it would be a 51/2 hour on the bus. Im going to fly back from wherever I end up. I will see Andy sometime. He flies in from Germany  and will be picking me up with his work-friend.

 

More tomorrow.