Sunday, October 25, 2009

İstanbul by night

Its been a long time that I did not meet with my friends from my banking days. So we went to a fish restaurant last night. There were lots of catching up to do, many gossip, delicious fish and mezzes, plenty of raki and wine...As we were not able to go out for some time, because of hubby's knee, it was such a welcoming relief to us.
The restaurant we went called, Tarihi Karaköy Balıkçısı is located in Istanbul’s Perşembe Pazarı district; a shady area near the Golden Horn filled with small shops that sell plastic pipes and bathroom fixtures. Definitely not a place you could expect to find a nice restaurant. However when you reach to the top floor of an old building, you are finding a very nice place and a magnificent view of the Golden Horn Bridge, Egyptian Bazaar, several of the mosques and the façade of Topkapi Palace. Sometimes I feel like İstanbul is like a gift box. You dont know what to expect until you open it.

I ate the speciality of the place, sea bass wrapped and cooked in parchment paper. It was a wonderful Saturday night filled with nice weather that you cant expect in October, friendship, lots of laughter and an amazing view for our soul...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Traditional Turkish Coffeehouses..

On my previous post there was a lovely photo of two men playing backgammon from Oytun Orgul. The photograph was taken in the Tahmis Coffeehouse in Gaziantep , a city in the south-eastern part of Turkey.

I have visited the very same coffeehouse couple years ago as most of the visitors of Gaziantep. Tahmis is a famous place as it was operated as a coffeehouse since 1903 by the members of the same family. During the Ottoman period, the building was known to built to supply income to the nearby lodge used by Mevlevi dervishes.

The first coffeehouses started to open in İstanbul in the 15th century. Along way to Starbucks... And since then they have played an important role in the Turkish culture. With the effect of the Islam while women entertain themselves inside the houses, men usually meet at a coffeehouse for recreation and communication. Traditionally it is a male dominated place.
A traditional coffeehouse is very much look like Tahmis, very basic furniture and a small kitchen for tea or coffee. While customers mostly chat, it is also very common to play backgammon and other card games.

While the modern coffee shops and chains invaded the big streets of the cities, you could still find tradional coffeehouses everywhere. In big cities just look at the side streets or lower and middle income neighbourhoods. In rural areas, they are usually at the center of the town. Although it is a male dominated place, there is no law against women to enter other than the cultural values.

I usually like to spend some time at a coffeehouse, when we are visiting small villages. It is an excellent way to meet with the locals and learn all the gossip. Why coffeehouses are still very popular? Maybe you could find the answer in an old Turkish proverb; '' one cup of coffee is worth 40 years of friendship''

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thru the lenses of Oytun Orgul

Today I want to introduce you another Turkish photographer, Oytun Orgul. Well, he is not actually a photographer but a lighting cameraman and he is in the family. He is my husband's cousin... He loves to travel, mountaineer and document his adventures.
Rize -Ayder Plateau
Kars - Ani ruins
Batman - Hasankeyf
Nigde - Aladag Mountains
Rize - Kackar Mountains
Gaziantep Tahmis Coffee House

Oytun is also highly experienced in documentaries and TV programs and shoot some documentaries in some underdeveloped countries like Cambodia & Tajikistan. Above I gave you some examples from his photos from Turkey, for countries like Tajikistan, Cambodia, Malaysia and Kyrgyztan please visit his site at and while you are there dont forget to check his magnificent aerial films, especially the one about İshakpasa Palace, a jewel in the eastern part of the country...
and last but not the least,thank you very much Oytun to let Turquoise Diaries to post some of your work..

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sile for B&W Sunday...

Today I have some photos for the Black&White Sunday. I took these pictures last winter when we went to Sile for a late fish lunch. Sile is a nice sea side town close to İstanbul. Very crowded during summer months as expected, but rather silent and sad during winter, perfect for B&W photos!!

And this boat laying on the dock was just crying for B&W shots.

Please visit Anne Marie at NadaFarm for B&W Sunday

Friday, October 16, 2009

Zenobia - The Warrior Queen

My nursing activities are going on full time. As I dont have time for a brand new post for today, I am going to give you an old one. It's a post about a woman. Well, she is not a nurse but a queen. I wrote this piece about an amazing woman right after my visit to Syria. So let me introduce you to Zenobia..

''Today I will tell you about a Syrian woman, not an ordinary one but the queen of Palmyra. She is one of the two most important figures of this country, along with Saladin Eyyubi.. I was not aware of her until this trip, but amazed, when I learned that she was almost bringing an early end to Roman Empire.
Zenobia’s father was a Bedouin, Roman citizen and a senator at Palmyra. Her mother died when giving birth to her and her father gave great importance to her education. She was especially interested in history, enjoyed Homer and Plato and talked Egyptian, Greek, Latin and Aramaic. She traveled to nearby countries by caravans. She was also a beautiful, smart and a very attractive woman, who was very fond of hunting and drinking.

In the year 258, at the age of 20, she married to King of Palmyra, Septimus Odaenathus who was 60, as his second wife. Zenobia who hated Romans took this marriage as means to power. Her stepson Hairan was the heir of the throne. In 266 Zenobia gave birth to her own son named Vaballathus – gift of the goddess. A year later in 267, both the king and the heir assassinated. Zenobia’s involvement in these affairs was unknown.

Her son announced as the new king but as he was not old enough to rule, Zenobia succeeded his father and ruled on his behalf. She learned about politics when her husband alive by joining the parliament meetings and even ruling the meetings when her husband was sick.

During this period Romans had problems of their own. Siege of Goths, were blocking their lifelines. Zenobia saw the opportunity and started to invade new areas in the name of Roman Emperor with the claim of protecting the region from Sassanid Empire. She took the vital trade routes in these areas from Romans. She rode at the head of her army and became known as the Warrior Queen. It was written that she was a very talented horse rider and easily walked 5-6 km.
She went as far as Ankara, Chalcedon, Palestine and Lebanon. When she invaded Antakya she sent a message to Roman Emperor that this invasion was fulfilled under his name. Later she took Alexandria and there she made her unforgivable mistake and cut coins for her and her son’s name. It was a rebellion against Romans. Later she stopped the transportation of grains to Rome. Her goal was to defeat the Roman Empire and carry the political power to Palmyra.

As always said with a twist of fate (its definitely not fate, there should be some reasons but I don’t know what they are..) Goths lifted the siege of Rome. When Zenobia heard of this, she immediately sent her allegiance message to Rome but it was too late. Rome did not trust her anymore.
Roman Emperor Aurelian moved towards Palmyra with an army of 100.000. Zenobia was waiting him in Anatolia but the size of her army was only 20.000. Zenobia forced to retreat. Finally Romans sieged Palmyra but Zenobia was ready for them. Every night she ordered big feasts in the centers of the city where people were eating, drinking and enjoying themselves. She was teasing the Romans and showing them that her city was ready for a long siege. But when Romans made alliance with the Bedouins, Zenobia’s plans were doomed. One night she and her son secretly escaped from the city on camel back with the help of her old enemies Sassanids but they caught them near the Euriphes River.

She swallowed her pride and kneeled down in front of Aurelian and begged not for her life but for Palmyra. The destruction and plunder of her beloved city was her biggest nightmare. Aurelian granted her wish but took her and her son to Rome as hostages. Her son was killed when the Roman army was passing the Bhosphorus. In the year 274 she was in Rome in gold chains. Aurelian who was impressed with her beauty and intelligence gave her a villa near Tivoli.
From then on there are two different stories about Zenobia. In the first and the most accepted one, Zenobia married a Roman governor and senator and lived in luxury and became a prominent philosopher, socialite and Roman matron. The two had several daughters who married into Roman noble families.
In the second story, Zenobia forced to live as the mistress of the Emperor and committed suicide after she organized the assassination of Aurelian in Thrace when he was on a new Sasaniad campaign.

Palmyrenes rebelled against Romans after the army left. The Emperor, who initially showed mercy, became furious after the news. Roman army came back invaded, destroyed and plundered the city and left it in ruins.

While certain historical evidences are supporting the first story about Zenobia, I want to believe the second one. I find it quite difficult to imagine a woman who was as smart and as ambitious as her, in entertaining with Romans who killed her son and destroyed her beloved city.

Palmyra established in the 1. Century and had a life of 250 years. While it was a typical Roman city with its own gods, it succeeded in creating its own style and philosophy in a rich and refined way. If you have an opportunity to visit just one place in Syria, my advice is; make it Palmyra. It is definitely an oasis in the desert with its pillars, temples and tombs.

Picture of Zenobia is from Herbert Schmalz. A queen observing Rome, in gold chains.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eyes of an Angel

Adopting the puppy Hera greatly reduced our ability to travel for the time being. We are waiting for her to grow a bit. However, in the mean time we were satisfying ourselves with short excursions in the city. Now we have to stop doing that due to an unexpected injury. While playing with Hera, hubby fell down and injured his knee. His MRs are showing some damage in the cartilage and in order to avoid surgery he has to stay in bed for the coming 10 days. While this give me the chance to play the naughty nurse ,books, DVDs, internet, and TV along with the pouring rain outside make it easier to stay inside.

For this week we had actually decided to visit Hagia Sophia, one of the greatest remains from the Byzantine era, to look into the eyes of an angel.
Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian between 532 and 537 A.D., was originally a basilica before it was converted into a mosque when Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1453. During the conversion process, the Ottomans covered the mosaics with plaster instead of removing them. The building was turned into a museum in 1934.

Many mosaics of the emperors and empresses were keep amazing the millions of visitors since then, but a photo I saw in the news during July practically took my breath away. It was the photo of an recently uncovered angel. Its six winged figure said to represent the angel Seraphim, guardian of God's throne. Since our return to İstanbul, I was dying to see Seraphim with my own eyes but it looks like I have to wait some more.
I remember telling you that I have a deep love and hate relation with this city. To live side by side with such a rich history is one of the reasons of my love..

1st photo is from here

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I think one of my biggest contribution to our marriage and happiness is to create this office place for us. This place is the extension of our kitchen, normally designed for a dinner table.

As you know I am retired and, my husband is semi retired so when we are at home we love to spend time on internet. We have our blogs, games and hubby has his own on line bridge partners. When I realize that we spent so much time seperate from each other, I designed this space. Now we are together all the time. We talk,watch TV, help each other and usually have the breakfast here.
Our desk is usually crowded with papers,various gadgets, used plates and cups but for today I tried to tidy it up a bit.
So welcome to our kitchen office....

Friday, October 9, 2009

İstanbul Photo Contest

Today I came across with this photo contest about İstanbul. These are the results of 2008 and appereantly there is another one going on for 2009.

You could reach the site from and while you are there please check the exhibition photos. If I had a chance to vote, my vote could go someone else. and hey!! I know some of you already visited İstanbul, why dont you join the new contest..

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I LOVE receiving comments but sometimes I am quite late in answering some of your questions. So this post will be about some updates and questions I neglected to answer..

1) HERA - our dear puppy... I know some of you asked about her health but as we were not sure how she was doing for a while, I waited a bit. Now I can happily tell you that she had an almost clean bill of health from her vet, she is doing quite fine. Nowadays she is like a walking pee machine and so far we couldnt tell her that its OK to pee outside. When she has pee, she barks and cries to go home so that she can pee to a newspaper. We are working full time to reverse this habit. She is our little sun shine..

2) GUVEN ILTER - Last month I posted some wonderful İstanbul photos of my friend Guven. He has finally started a website where you can see more of his photograps. Please see more of his photograps and posts at

3) CHERRY LIQUEUR - During the festival of sweets, I mentioned about my home made cherry liqueur. So here is the receipe if you want to try it.

Put 2 kilograms of cherry, 1/2 kg of sugar, couple cinnamon sticks and cloves to a big jar and then add 1,5 litres of vodka. Keep it in a dark and cool place for 2-3 months and then enjoy it. I usually add one more bottle of vodka after it is done. Sugar and the vodka level is rather depends on the taste..

For the last weekend I also made a cherry cake. As you will have 2 kg of vodka soaked cherries after a while why not use your imagination. Although a big slice could make you a bit dizzy, it was delicious. :))

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Decoration in Bhutan

Reminder to dear readers: This is probably an x rated post in some parts of the world so read at your own risk :))
I love reading and looking at everything about decoration. Books, magazines, sites, blogs you name it... There are some good stuff and there are some bad stuff, depends on the taste. But more or less you are seeing the same type of houses almost everywhere. Some are for the low budget, some for the budgets that I can not imagine..But how about being different, bold and brave in decorating your house??? All these terms again could be for the western eyes but today let me take you to Kingdom of Bhutan for some different decorative elements.

I have travelled to this country in the year 2000. I will probably write more about this jewel in the future but today lets start with houses. Traditional Bhutanese houses are very well made and decorated with vibrant designs like animals, flowers or some religious figures.

However there were some folks who decorated their houses with the signs of abundance..

The other day Miss Footloose posted a beautiful quote on her lovely blog from Mark Twain. '' Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness'' and this traveller posing in front of the Bhutanese mountains was probably thinking along these lines in those days..

Friday, October 2, 2009

Last Days of Summer..

Yesterday was another beautiful day. We took our daily walk at the sea side. Amazingly we came across we some brave souls who decided to enjoy the sun shine and sea together.

I call them brave because it's already October and its not the ideal time of the Marmara Sea to swim. It should be rather cold. They also got another ribbon of bravery from me as they have the courage to swim in the contaminated waters of Marmara. Being an inland sea, Marmara is the life blood of İstanbul, however years of neglect left its once turquoise waters pretty dirty, especially in the shores of İstanbul..

As for us, we already adopted ourselves to autumn and like to watch the falling leaves.... Have a great weekend and enjoy the season whichever you are living in..


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