Monday, 29 April 2013


So I finally had a glass of  Turkey's ex-national drink Raki ( you need to ask the Government about that) when my friend Z came to visit. It was well-deserved too because we had spent the whole day traversing the the whole city : Istiklal Street, Galata Tower, Galata Bridge, Aya Sofia ( for the hundredth time), ferry trip to Kadikoy.  

Sunday, 28 April 2013

FWH alert!

Whenever I go the the American hospital ( or Amerikaner Hastanasi as we locals say) I walk past a a lovely green park garden. It is always brimming with cats: sleeping, playing, climbing trees, washing, arguing, cleaning, loving.  There are also dogs in the park, largely lying in the sun, dreaming of doggy world.
So you can imagine my surprise the other day when I walk passed and saw some FWHs roaming in the park too. That's right my friends - the Feral Wet Hens have made it to Istanbul.  Woo hoo

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Road Cat

See I'm not the only one in this town with a thing for cats.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Emirgan Park

Did you know the tulip originated from Turkey?
That's why they serve their tea in tulip shape glasses and if you look closely at the mosaics in many of the mosques you will see intricate tulip designs.
Now somewhere along the line those crafty Dutch with their Edam cheese and clacketty clogs appropriated the tulip as their own. But the Turkish have decided to claim it back and what better way than through a tulip-slashing rampage through the Dutch countryside. No. Not really. The Turkish have actually gone one better and  decided to create an international tulip festival instead. During this festival pretty much any patch of fertile land whether it be park, garden or roundabout is planted with tulip bulbs so they can explode into colour right at festival time.

Which is now!

As a Stanbulli I feel it is my duty to participate in the festival and admire the beloved tulip in its native land. So a few days ago it was off to Emirgan Park for me. Of course the trip there was not  a pleasure (as is to be expected when you live in a city of 16 billion drivers.) No one likes to commute apart from me -  I am the world's-best-commuter. Everyone else finds it far more posh to drive thus clogging the lanes upon which the world's-best-commuter is trying to commute. Suffice to say the  bus trip there took a small slice of forever but at least it ran alongside The Bosphorus and there was many a pleasing scene to behold.

Not as pleasing as Emirgan Park in bloom of course.

I should probably warn you at this point that if you have an aversion to tulips it would probably be best to look away for not only am I the world's best commuter but I am also a high-ranking tulip-admirer.

Look - yellow ones!
Pink ones!
Red ones!

Purple friends!

White ones!

Pink ones again!

Orangey-yellow ones!
The park even has a grotto.

And tulip fish!

I love a good grotto.

And the Queensland part of me simply cannot resist a big plastic replica of anything!

There were actually a lot of wedding parties in the park too. I mean why pay for flowers when you can pose among them like a princess for free. Most of the brides were dressed  in white and wore steely gazes. I don't know if they were counting all the shoes they were going to buy after they were married or if they were upset that there were so many other brides in the park competing for best-bride-in-the-park. All the grooms, on the other hand, looked pretty cheerful with that 'I'm about to get laid' sort of grin on their face.  There was one bridal couple; however, that stood out from the others. Probably the most beautiful bride I have ever seen  (discounting all friends and relatives who have got married of course!) She was dressed in green so she blended with the park but I think it was the way she and her groom whispered together that made her so beautiful. 

After I had finished stalking the brides I went and had lunch at a park restaurant with the rest of Istanbul. The  restaurant was lovely. It was an old Ottoman style building built in the shape of a bird cage. Apparently the Turks love their birds although I am not sure if building bird cages is exactly the best expression of love for a bird.

Tulipped-out I walked along The Bosphorus for a while until the world-best-commuter's legs gave in and I took a bus back home.

Monday, 15 April 2013


I wonder how long I can really live here when this happens.
Just listening to him is a gift in itself. 

I'm glad Three-Paw cannot tweet. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Just thought I'd take a minute to celebrate one of my little hairy friends...Hara! Just look at her now. A year ago she was living on the streets, sleeping under cars, begging for love and food. Now she's a poster child for the horse farm she lives on.  Way to go my sweet, sweet doggy.

Shopping Malls and Rumi

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is of course a very famous shopping bazaar. It is beautifully set in a  a maze of covered streets and is always mysterious and romantic to stroll around. Not all  buildings have to be old to be beautiful though and yesterday I went to Istinye Park. The name is a misnomer because it is not actually a park but a very luxurious and beautiful shopping centre. I was very lucky to go (as it is not on the metro nor on The Bosphorus) because a very kind woman called Lale, who is a relative of two other very kind women I know from Switzerland,  took me along.We actually first  met (briefly) on Wednesday after I had spent a horrible hour traipsing down a highway the wrong way because Google maps told me to and Google was very, very wrong. I was trying to find an art gallery where Lale's mother-in-law was having an art exhibition. Of course by the time I arrived there, nearly in tears because I had got so horribly lost, I had to go again but we arranged to meet on  Friday instead. The artist by the way is called Naile Akinci and I have to say she has painted some wonderfully evocative pictures of Istanbul. I liked them very much.
Anyway as mentioned we arranged to go to the shopping centre and it really was quite beautifully done. We wandered around and then had tea and cakes at a very nice little cake shop. It was nice to sit somewhere with someone and talk. At one point we ended up talking about Rumi and Shams ( as you do when you are in Turkey) and she told me how she knows one of Rumi's descendants. How interesting. She said maybe later in the year we could even go to Konya and meet her. Just the idea sounds romantic even if it never happens.

“Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.” RUMI

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

It burns! It burns!

On Sunday I went to my first ever Pilates class. 
Hooray! shout the cats. At least she has a hobby other than stalking us now! 

I actually quite enjoyed the class too. A lot of the time I spent lying on my back and even though it burned (and oh it burned) I found it more appealing than yoga. I think it might have been all the repetitive moves (good for my OC tendencies)  and also the fact that because I can't speak Turkish I can guess what we are doing much more easily  because we stay in the same positions for longer. Anyway I came out of the class with a burning abdomen but a feeling of accomplishment in my bones so I decided I would wander up to Istiklal Street and and have a leisurely afternoon stroll. 
Now Istiklal Street is very close to my street and it is sort of like the Oxford Street of London, Queen Street Mall of Brisbane, or Via dei Calzaiuoli in Florence.It is very central and full of shops and restaurants/ bars etc.  So there I was happily strolling along like a Pilates Queen when suddenly my eyes, nose and throat started burning. I mean really burning. I was passing a bar at the time so I assumed ( wrongly) that they were renovating and had accidentally sprayed some sort of noxious fumes into the air. Anyway I scurried out of the street with my mouth covered by my bag ( not tomato bag luckily) and suddenly I found myself in a rush of people who were running down the street. Obviously I began to run too and I noticed they were diving into shops so I flung myself in a jean's store just as they were beginning to lower the grill at the front of the shop. The owner stopped it halfway down so people could still get in and then we all stood in the shop holding our throats and our noses and rubbing our eyes. I crouched by the front window to look out and all I could see was water/ ice on the streets and columns of police boots marching past the window. No one else was about just an eerie procession of boots. Then another billowing cloud of white gas came down the street and more people came running into the shop. The owner decided to shut the grill entirely but unfortunately some of the tear-gas ( I had finally cottoned on) made it into the shop so we all ran to the back of the shop in tears...literally. It was a horrible experience and to be honest as I looked around the shop at my fellow tear-gasees I have to say there were a number of shady sorts that I wasn't particularly pleased to be holed up with.
Anyway after some time they opened the shops again and we all went outside. I went straight to a coffee shop I like very nearby and had a big fat cappuccino ( adios pilates goodness.)
I later discovered that the trouble had been over a theater which is being closed for renovations! I can't even imagine what happens if the protest is political! But it was a very good lesson for me to keep my wits about me and remember that things can change here on the flip of a coin.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Motorcycle diaries

So the other day I found Three-Paw eyeing up a motorbike on the street. 

Obviously I reminded him ( sensitively) of his one-armed status....but alas to no avail! 

What's a girl gonna do? Destroy a bad cat's dream! 

So I told Three-Paw that I would get my leathers and we would tear up the town on one condition. He had to find a slightly less beasty bike since I had no idea how to drive one of those things and he only had one paw. 

Well, I had to reward him for his tenacity, didn't I ? ... so off we went, carving up the streets of Istanbul, until I got stopped by the police for not wearing a helmet. (I had given it to Three-Paw since he has a proven  record of losing extraneous body parts.) 

Never mind it was fun while it lasted! 
And the next morning I saw Three-Paw looking pretty pleased with himself too.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Just call me Dora the explorer!

So last Saturday I decided to take myself on a self-guided tour of some of the lesser visited sights of Istanbul since you can only go to The Grand Bazaar (The GB)  so many times. I started by walking down my street, with an obligatory pat of Three-Paw on the way, before catching the tram to Beyazit ( which is actually the stop for The GB should anyway be interested.) But instead of entering Haggle-World I went to a lovely tea garden nearby called Çorlulu Ali Paşa Medrese.  It was full of unshaven types, sucking on nargileh pipes, playing Tavla. Lovely. So I sat down and had a Turkish coffee ( which is rather similar to Arabic coffee and Greek coffee and...well it's made in Turkey) and watched all the people smiling and gossiping and puffing sweet smoke. I half wished someone would ask me to play Tavla but I would never have done it if they had asked. I am quite gregarious in the classroom but can be very shy without a blackboard ( and whipping cane) beside me. Anyway sated by my coffee I walked through one of the avenues of The GB but I was on a greater mission. There would be no browsing today. I was determined to make it out the other end without a pashmina in hand which actually wasn't that difficult since I currently have the financial stability of a Cypriot . 

My plan was to find an Buyuk Valide Han somewhere on a street nearby.Astonishingly I managed to do this with the precision of a front-of-the-pack Amazing Racer. It seemed quite abandoned apart from the odd scurry of an artisan running between rooms. But the spooky desolation of it all  was not enough to deter this explorer  from wandering through its dark, damp alleys. 

It smelt wonderfully old and musty. Just how I like it. After a few minutes of nose-poking I noticed an old man in a beanie standing at a door which I immediately became compelled to inspect. He smiled at me as I pointed at the door and after a minute of deliberation he opened it up so I  go could inside. Well, all I could see was a very uninviting set of stairs which clearly I had to climb... but at the top it opened up onto the roof of the Han and a glorious view of Istanbul greeted me in a blaze of blue sky. Honestly, it was so peaceful up there ( probably a health & safety nightmare) but just clambering between the domes of the roof made my explorer soul very happy. And I can't even decide how many photos to bore  you with although none of them do justice with the experience of actually being up there. 

Not entirely sure what to call this pose!

Once I had finished my frolic over the roof I made my way down and headed for my lunchtime destination - The Aqueducts of Valens.

This is definitely a much more traditional area of Istanbul with plenty of baskets of newly chopped goat heads for me to avoid. I liked how the arches spanned the streets though. Very medieval. 
Finally I ended my day with a ferry trip to Asia to visit Uskudar. From here you can visit the Maiden's Tower in the middle of The Bosphorus. 

But once i got there I realised I was actually monstrously tired so I just wandered along the promenade ...

before catching a boat back to the iskele ( port) near my home.

 Stay tuned for tulip tales.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Finding the ray of light

Today was not a good day. In the morning I had my official observation where my boss sits in the class frantically scribbling down everything I do ( wrong). I hate observations. I am never natural in them and I suddenly do things I would never do in the class normally. And the students are always more difficult too. Not intentionally. I think they get nervous that someone else is in the room too and it just spirals into chaos or even worse into silence. Anyway I really felt today that my class did not reflect how I really teach. I am probably being extra harsh on myself because I am good at that but when I think back over it I can see a trillion things I could have done better.
By the end of the day I had replayed the whole class so many times over in my head I began to feel really depressed. So I decided to walk home from The American Hospital and reflect on the good things that had happened that day. Like the fact that I was even brave enough to try and find my way home using the back streets of Istanbul. And my little mistake with a waiter today when I accidentally said 'I am food' instead of  'I eat.' (That's what happens when you try and teach yourself a language.) I thought about how today was the first time I had eaten  lunch with another teacher and we had a conversation about Star Wars ( Does Chewabacca age in dog years?) and West country Hobbits. I thought about the marmite sandwiches I am going to have tonight. And then when Ii got to the bottom of my street I saw a yoga center and I decided it is time to embrace the downward dog again. I think I am afraid of yoga but I need to open my chest up again. I need to breathe better and open my heart.
I don't necessarily feel much better but at least I walked. At least I tried. I need to get some sort of filter attached to my brain which stops me reflecting on bad things over and over and over again. Or maybe i just need to pat Three-Paw more vigorously.  

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Red in the streets

In Switzerland there is a law that an animal such as a sheep/ horse etc must have another of its kind in view at all times. I have decided that it must be law in Turkey that every human being must be able to see a Turkish flag ( or preferably multiple Turkish flags) at all times and if this is not possible they must be able to see Ataturk instead. I quite like flag/ Ataturk counting if I am honest because it satisfies my OCD desire to count from time to time.
I suspect that tonight the streets will be even more red than usual ( with flags I hope not blood) as Galatasaray are playing Real Madrid in the Champion's League. So monumental is this event my Wednesday class wrote to the school to have their class cancelled. When they asked me if I would be sad that they cancelled I said of course I would miss them but I understood it was for the greater good. ( Heh it also means i get the night off.) Today I wish I did have a real  friend though to watch the match with.  That would have been nice.