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Random musings on Istanbul

by on July 1, 2013

By David:

We had a very fun week in Istanbul, a very fascinating city. Tomorrow we go to Kusadasi, a resort city on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. One week down, six to go, and (other than Renee’s knee) all is good!

We learned in the the year after last summer’s trip that our real memories are the fun, little random things that we come across on the trip. The big “sights” are just the vehicle for getting us out in the world so we have the little experiences. Dare I say, the big sights are the pita bread used to scoop up the diced, pickled eggplant?

So… here are a few random sights, sounds and experiences from Istanbul:


The Byzantines had a “zero meridian” about 2000 years before the English



The steamed corn cobs from the street vendors are better than the roasted ones



At the Hagia Sophia mosque, built in 500AD, the basic construction technique was to pour cement over a big random pile of stone rubble to make a pillar, then cover it up with nice sheets of marble. (Some of the marble panels had fallen off, exposing the underlying structure, and Anna found it quite scary).

So yesterday we walked by a decent-looking 1960s-vintage building on a main street which was covered by nice panels of marble. One of the panels had fallen off, and underneath was…. a random pile of bricks with cement! 1100 years and they haven’t learned better?



Here’s how you cram 13 million people into a 8000-year-old metropolitan area… miles and miles of 7-story apartment buildings



Hey Uncle John, try making a bowl out of THIS sycamore tree!



Cute photo of Anna, don’t you think?


PS: You may get the impression from Anna’s blog posts that she’s just a grumpy teenager who doesn’t like anything on the trip. Not true! Today she yelled “this is awesome” at least 3 times. This fountain was one of the things that made her happy. And yes, yet another old building can be boring for parents, too. Just keep telling yourself it’s “pita bread”


You MUST keep your eyes on your feet on every single step on a sidewalk in this city. Traps like this await you at every step. No concept here of guardrails or liability lawsuits, apparently.



Hey rest-of-Europe, your traffic jams ain’t got nuttin’ on Istanbul! This white car was BACKING UP to let a garbage truck try to come up the narrow street.


PS: the drivers are surprisingly polite about the mess… small toots of their horn and mild discussions with the others. In Rome everything was a cussing match.


It’s hard to see, but the sign on the blue shop on the left says “Magic Lamp Factory Outlet” 🙂 I think it’s been in business since Aladdin’s time.



Fun experience today, standing between two mosques at prayer time, and the men singing the prayer calls were doing a bit of “dueling banjos” with each other… singing the same lyric in very different ways, and giving the other a chance to finish his lyric before starting the next.

PS: The prayer callers are known as”muezzins” … I had always wondered how that word is pronounced .. it’s “mway-zeen”

PPS: Sorry guys, I respect your sunup, noon and sundown prayer calls, but what possible reason do you have to do it at 4:30 am?

Th-th-th-that’s all, folks!


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  1. Tania permalink

    Thank you for the vicarious living through the blog! Did you buy a rug yet? Had your fill of tea?

    Enjoy Kusadasi and Ephesus. Are you going to visit Mary’s house? Be careful with the water. It is supposed to cause fertility and women go there for help getting pregnant. John’s favorite part of Ephesus was the communal men’s bathroom. Holes in a circle – play poker and poop.

    Wish I was there!!

  2. Uncle Phil permalink

    As you guys continue to fill up my doggie bag, go ahead and throw in some of that steamed corn (but not the roasted corn) and while you’re at it, feel free to pass on the diced, pickled eggplant.

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