Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Going" in Turkey

What you can't see is the faucet, usually with a short hose attached so you can fill the bucket and I'm guessing clean up after yourself.  This toilet is in the ladies washroom at our new favourite restaurant. It is very clean compared to some I've seen.  It also has toilet paper which is rare. Cam says in Kazakhstan this is called a Turkish toilet.

Right beside this cubicle is another cubicle with the kind of toilet common in Canada.  Sometimes places will have both or only one kind of toilet.

Hand soap and paper towel at the sink aren't common place either.

In order to save energy (?), or prevent loitering (?), most bathrooms, including this one, have a motion sensor light so part way through your time you have to wave your arm over your head to turn the light back on.

In many places there is a sign in the bathroom that says:

I'm guessing that you're never supposed to put paper in the toilet and the signs are only a reminder of what is commonly understood by natives. The first place I saw a sign like this was at a restaurant at the harbour in Gelibolu.  I assumed at the time that the toilets flushed into the harbour. Watching the fishing boats from our table gave me an uneasy feeling. We saw these signs in Greece too.
In public places (shopping areas, tourist destinations, gas stations), there is often a WC (water closet) sign.  These public washrooms usually cost one lira per person.  There is always a booth or a table where a person sits to take the money.  This person also keeps the bathrooms clean and tidy.  Beside these public facilities there is often a place for observant Muslims to wash before they pray.
In Greece it was very common for there to be a cubicle for men and one for women side by side sharing a common mirror and sink. It felt odd to be in the washroom line up with men.
We stopped for gas in a pretty little village between Thessaloniki and the border for gas. Unfortunately we all had to go. The gas bar service station was the worst I've seen anywhere (including the Esso in Airdrie in 1999 .... burned in my memory for its squalor). The paper basket was over flowing, the floor and the toilet were filthy and to add insult neither toilet had a seat. Of course there was neither paper nor hand soap. 

Greece or Turkey

     These neighbouring countries share many traits, but just crossing the border we noticed some very obvious differences.  These insights are based on exactly 5 days in Greece and most of eight months in Turkey so there is a wide margin of error.

Graffiti in public spaces = Greece
Road signs in English too = Greece
Trash along the road = Turkey
Mountains = Both
Cotton crop = Greece
Sunflower crop = Turkey
Free range cows = Greece
Wind power = Both
Solar power = Greece
Large shopping malls = Both
At least one house of worship in every town and village = Both*
Feral Dogs and Cats = Both (but Greece has many less)
Toll Highways = Both
Beautifully paved highways = Both, but Greece's roads are generally superior
Over the top patriotism (flags and historic photos everywhere) = Turkey
Passionate kissing on the street, in the restaurant and well everywhere = Greece
Women walking arm in arm = Turkey
Men walking arm in arm = Turkey
Yummy street food = Both! Gyros in Greece, Simit in Turkey
Bottled water = Both
Bacon = Greece

*mosques in Turkey and Eastern Orthodox churches in Greece

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday Pazzar

    The Tuesday Pazaar is an interesting sight; especially when it finally stops raining. The sellers are selling and the buyers are buying or walking around looking. It gets crowed very fast. Sixty percent of the people are talking. The other forty are walking around with their hands full of groceries, not really caring if they bounce their potatoes off your knees. Not that you can complain, it was your idea to go to the pazaar today. 
Some of the venders are quiet, they let you come to them and they help you when you arrive. Some are loud, they shout about what a great deal they have or what they are selling.  All the venders have their spot, for instance, all the times we have gone to the pazaar our favourite cheese seller is in the same spot.  And it’s like that with everybody. It’s handy because you know where you have to go to get the things you need.  

Monday, October 22, 2012


Well, a post from me is long overdue and for that I apologize. Anyway, here are some photo's from last weekend's trip to Thessaloniki.
A funny car in the science museum just outside Thessaloniki
  Nicole inspecting said funny car

A cool galley from the ancient Greek technology display in the science museum. For some reason all of my pictures of the galleys are blurry :(
 When we stopped for a drink and a rest at a little cafe, everyone was taking everyone else's picture.
Nicole liked her water :)

Sam was just enjoying the show!

  Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ears!
Why? Don't you have your own?
This is the Roman forum of Thessaloniki. It's an impressive spread and Nicole and I are longing to do a drama in an amphitheater now. ;)

The first church in Thessaloniki; the Rotunda (Originally built as a mausoleum but Galarius, who built it, went and died somewhere else.)
Better than the Hagia Sophia in my opinion. I liked the mosaics better, most of the ones in the Hagia Sophia are creepy. 

Engravings from the Arch of Galarius. I really liked the arch.
  The restored minaret outside the Rotunda from when the Turks invaded and converted the church into a mosque.
 What's this? Alexander and Bucephalus?
Unfortunately because of construction we couldn't get any closer to the statue. Thankfully it was big enough we could take good photo's from a distance.
So that was Thessaloniki. Very impressive, it always awes me the amount of history there is in this part of the world. Thessaloniki was a thriving city before Jesus was born. The Via Ignatia, the old roman road from Istanbul to the Western side of Greece was in existence before explorers even dreamed of finding a Northwest passage.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

On the road AGAIN

This week we decided we'd spend the weekend at home.  The last two weekends we spent in Greece; which meant a lot of time driving (often because we were lost).

So Cam and I got up Saturday morning, said good bye to the kids and headed for Silivre which is a town this side of Istanbul.  It's a three hour drive. One Way. 

In Silivre we found a boat dealership and spent about half an hour discussing boats and drinking chai with "Ali" using Cam's Turkish, Ali's English and Google Translate.  We had a few laughs and came away quite pleased with ourselves.  By two we'd found a nice little restaurant to have lunch in. We had a lovely lunch.  Afterwards we went hunting for the boat dealerships on our list.
Roads in Turkey don't run at right angles like they do in Alberta.  Cloverleafs are a rarety.  Once you get off the 4 lane divided highway you have to find a different access to get back on.  Signs in the little towns along the way are sometimes not so helpful. Signs identifying the names of streets are sometimes printed on buildings or in most cases are nonexistant. Yesterday we went around a traffic circle twice because the sign for our destination was pointed at the ground! 

A few minutes later later we got into a convey of cars following a large dump truck. We weren't sure we were on the right path.  The signs for the four lane (D100) petered out and the street became a narrow one lane with apartment blocks on either side. Suddenly there was the sound of  crunching cars and the convey came to a halt.  People poured out onto the street to have a look and the honking behind us increased.  The dump truck hit a car turning onto the street. We were blocked in with no where to turn around.  There were many cars behind us.  Eventually someone came out and started to direct traffic so cars could back up and turn onto a side street. Now we were completely lost because we were off the path with the signs and the streets were a maze of dead ends, and blocked lanes.  So we resorted to rolling down the window and calling out to pedestrians who used hand gestures to tell us which way to turn!

Back on the four lane Cam spied one of the boat dealers we wanted to visit.  It took us twenty more minutes to get there because it was on the far side of the lanes going in the opposite direction.  When we got there, two dogs and a Dikkat Kopek Var  (beware of the dog) sign were the first things I saw. Inside a young man shrugged his shoulders at our questions.  His boss wasn't in and he couldn't help us.

We stopped again when we saw a HONDA sign, but it turned out this fellow was repairing engines not selling boats.  When I asked him, in my rudimentary Turkish, where we could find boats for sale he said 7 K - turn right or left.  It sounded so helpful.  And he winked at me when I left ... I shoud'a known.

We spent another hour driving around looking for another dealership and finally gave up about 4 pm.  One the way home we stopped at a mall.  Cam went into Technosa and bought a GPS.  Hopefully our days of being lost and misdirected are over.  Although that might take all the fun out of it!

Friday, October 19, 2012

What happened today...

 ...not too much really.  I woke up too early - before sunrise. I watched youtube TV for a bit and then spent a while sorting out the problem I made with my knitting yesterday. I picked up around the house a bit, emptied the dishwasher, and gathered Sam's laundry from the line. I surprised everyone and made pancakes for breakfast.  Cam is our usual breakfast chef - when we eat together.  However, lately we all fend for ourselves. We watched the end of Ben10 while we had breakfast.  Having the TV on during meals is a rarity in our house.

After breakfast, Nicole cleared up (the kids take turns) and I started laundry.  Then she and I met in her room and discussed the novel she is reading (Christy).  We did some internet research related to the novel and she copied a few paragraphs from the novel that I dictated.  Then we discussed her last math exercise from Math in Everyday Life. She completed the exercise from yesterday, while I waited.  Then we discussed budgeting for a family versus a single person. We also discussed what she might need to earn and save in order to buy a used car in 3 years.

I checked with Johanna to see what she was working on. I don't remember - but usually Blender (computer animation), English 20 assignments or maps research.

I got Sam from his room and turned on the computer so he could do math facts drill (Math Rider). Just as the program was loading the power went out so we corrected his history quiz (Mystery of History I) from yesterday.  By the time we finished, the power was on so he was able to do the drill.

Afterwards, I worked on laundry.  We don't have a dryer but today there was quite a breeze so line drying the loads was very quick and effective.

Once Sam was off the computer I checked my email, cruised facebook, read the Three Hills Capital, and watched a video Johanna made. Then Nicole and I made lunch.  The fridge was practically bare so I made grilled cheese sandwiches while Nicole made fruit salad from one can of mixed fruit, a banana and a peach.

At lunch, Cam and I decided to go for groceries in the afternoon and to Silivre tomorrow to look at boats.  None of the kids were keen to go along this afternoon or tomorrow.  Nicole cleared up and I went to reboot the laundry.  Once the laundry was going around again, I used google translate to write down some boat shopping phrases.  Sam and I copied the grocery list from the wipeboard to a piece of paper.

Cam and I decided to go to Kesan for groceries instead of Gelibolu.  He wanted to go to the Technosa to buy headphones with a built in mic so he can Skype his boss and I thought we could stop at the Yamaha dealer in Kesan to look at their boats.  Johanna decided she would come with us because the Kesan Kipa has more interesting things to look at than the one in Gelibolu.

The road from Kavak to Kesan is still under construction, so we weaved in and around the pylons.  We stopped at the Yamaha dealer, but it turns out all they have for sale is 4.5m and larger used boats which we think are too big.  The other smaller boats they have are in storage.  While we drove to Technosa, I called our neighbour to ask where she bought her inflatable boat.  After Cam bought a headset we drove to the Kipa (supermarket). 

We got two carts and zoomed around. We always buy a little more at this Kipa because they have a wider selection of international products (HP sauce, Heinz Ketchup, SoySauce), things we can't buy in Gelibolu (large bags of cereal) and sometimes we find better prices too.  The downside of shopping at this Kipa is that it's sooo big compared to our usual grocery store that I find it distracting.  The other downside is that they rarely have fresh milk.  Today they had two 1 liter glass bottles - both expired by 6 days - bleh.  So once again we bought UHT milk in the box.  The kids don't care for it but there's no choice. Cam filled his cart with water.  We don't drink the water that comes out of the taps, although we use it for cooking.

Cam drove us home.  On the way the truck in front of us passed a wagon powered by an auger motor I think Cam said .... and then we did too.

This is the major highway which bisects the peninsula we live on. Right now this road is under construction so in many places it is a two lane undivided highway.  Eventually it will be a four lane mostly divided highway.
 Horse powered or alternatively powered vehicles (like this one) filled with farm products and families are a normal part of using this road.
There were at least five people on this one. Mom, Dad (driving), two older children and a babe in mom's arms.  The traffic is doing +-100K.

We came home and unloaded the groceries, unloading and putting away is an "all hands on deck job" so it goes quickly.  I went out to the line to continue with the laundry. Our neighbour came out to talk with me.  She found a 5" long "thousand legger" in her bed last night so she called her brother and he will pick her up and take her home to Istanbul on Sunday.  We knew she wasn't planning to stay for the winter, but I'm sad she's leaving so soon.  She showed me the bug in the alley (dead under a rock!).  I showed Cam and the kids.  It's pretty ugly.  We've had lots of centipedes (and other bugs!) in the house but nothing as big as this.

After we parted company, I went back to collecting laundry.  I took the basket up stairs and then sat at my computer for a few minutes. Cam and I skyped for a few moments so he could test his new headset. When I heard him finish his business skype call and put the steaks on the bbq, I went downstairs and chopped vegis  (radishes, carrots, red pepper, cucumber). Nicole baked potatos and set the table.

After supper I skyped my mom (yeah!). Johanna picked a movie for us to watch - Quest for Camelot and now Johanna and Sam are playing Chess on Johanna's computer - which is still connected to the TV - so Nicole and Cam can watch.  Before bed Cam and Sam and I usually read part of Two Towers (J.R.R. Tolkien) and a chapter in the Bible (Genesis right now) together.

It's bed time.  It's been a long day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Alaskan Surprise

This little bit of science is supposed to show how the air bubbles in the cake and the merangue act as an insulator for the ice cream. So while we cooked it in the oven, the merangue and the cake stayed warm but the ice cream inside stayed cold. And it worked! 

This is the baking tray that came with the baking mix.
The cake we bought had a recipe for a some lemon icing so we decided to cut the cake in half so that we could make Alaskan Surprise and the cake with the icing.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thessaloniki in 4 paragraphs

     We left Friday (the 12th) and got back today (Sunday 14th).
Once we got to Thessaloniki, which took about four hours, we drove around in circles for almost three hours before we found a hotel with beds for us. We finished our supper at 11:20 then went to bed.
The next morning we got on the hotel's bus and went to the White Tower. Which was pretty cool; we walked from there to other places we wanted to see. When we got back to the White Tower there was a whole crowd of people around the shore.There was a navy type boat close-ish to shore. We hung around because we were curious about what was going on. It seemed that they were bringing a religious icon back (?) from somewhere.

    There was a parade too; the people wearing traditional Greek clothing paraded the longest. They walked in groups and stopped and danced. Unfortunately the parade route was on the street our bus was supposed to park on, we had to wait till 8:00 before the bus could get down there and pick us up.

The next morning we went to the science center; which was really cool. They had hands on science exhibits, old cars and ancient scientific instruments.  I think everybody liked it.

What I Liked About the White Tower.

This is the White Tower in Greece. It got its name because there were several executions done there. As a result the tower was stained with blood. So the guy in charge had it white washed which has since been removed and that is how it got its name. It was neat because it was made out of stone and you don't see many thing like that in Canada. The other thing was the museum inside which had stuff like the founding of Thessaloniki and trade and stuff like that. At the top of the tower, you could go out and have a look at the town below. Which was kind of cool. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thessaloniki here we come

Greek Salad in Greece - just like a Shepherd's Salad in Turkey ... but with CHEESE!
Calamari - everybody's favourite
So we're off to Greece again this weekend leaving as soon as I shut off the computer (I'm printing a map of the city).  The plan that we made an hour ago is to head from here to Thessalonika.  It's about a 5 hour drive one way. We'll cross the border at Ipsala.  We have the necessary "green card" insurance for the car so we should sail through - unlike last weekend when we had to play charades with the Greek Customs officer.

I learned exactly one word of Greek last weekend - the word for yes.  We didn't need it for our first meal in Greece.  The Grandmother who ran the restaurant was fluent in hand gestures and fed us like royalty. The desk clerk at the hotel in Alexandropoli spoke English and so did the sandwich shop owner in Didimotiho.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Kurban Bayrami or Sacrifice Day

Kurban Bayrami or Sacrifice Day is a four day Turkish festival when sheep are slaughtered and their meat is distributed to the poor. Like many Turkish festivals with religious significance this festival's dates change according to the Islamic calendar.  This year the festival will be celebrated on October 25, 26, 27 and 28.

A friend tells us tents are set up in towns and the sheep are slaughtered publicly.  She said it wasn't her favourite festival.  I like the idea behind it, but I've never been present when an animal was slaughtered.  She also said many people travel during this time so it's a good time to stay off the roads. 

Uzunkopru - Long Bridge

I found this place when I was browsing our region's entries in Lonely Planet Turkey. It caught my imagination and I wanted to go. We'd gotten close a couple of times, but had other priorities those days.

 "Uzunkopru - Long Bridge"

"Amazingly the 1392m-long Ottoman bridge 
after which the town is named is still standing 
with all of its 174 arches intact.  ... after 
nearly six centuries of continuous use." p 126

We took the long way home from Greece travelling north to the border crossing at Karaagac/Eirne on October 8th. By the time we made Uzunkopru, the light was beginning to fade. We crossed the river  from the north driving across a long modern bridge and my heart sank.  It seemed that the bridge I'd longed to see no longer existed. We turned off the highway and Cam drove us through the unfamiliar town's narrow streets. Drizzle, darkness and construction hindered our progress so we went round and round never seeing a sign or any indication that the bridge still existed. We were on the point of giving up when we found it. Driving across, it's low and flat; quite unremarkable as bridges go. There is just space for two vehicles to meet. However, considering its age, it's an amazing piece of ancient engineering. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A new language by lunch time

It's Sunday morning, a little after 8:30. We decided yesterday that we'd head for Greece today. The border at Ipsalla is a couple of hours away by car. Cam doesn't have any work commitments until Tuesday. Johanna has nearly all of her English 20 assignments completed so f we don't come home until tomorrow it shouldn't be a problem.

Only it occured to me last night, as I was drifting off, that if we really end up crossing the border into Greece today that our English, Turkish, highschool cereal box French and  Cam's 5 Russian phrases are going to do us very little good.

I found an online/printable English / Greek phrase book and together with a few minutes on Google Translate - I'm off to learn a little Greek pronounciation. Wish me luck...

Saturday, October 6, 2012


It's been more than a month since we went to Greece and I have three half written blog posts about the two weekends we spent there. So I going to read, review and reinvent and post post post. But first of all:  Canakkale!

Canakkale is a city on the Asian side of the Marmara Sea.  It is a vibrant university town. The ferry from Eceabat arrives in the middle of a very busy area filled with apartments, restaurants, stores and pedestrians.  In the past we have skirted the vehicular mayhem by taking the ferry from Gelibolu to Lapseki.  However our plan on Saturday, October 6 was to meet our friend on the waterfront near the Trojan Horse.  (If the horse looks familiar it is the "the one" used in the movie, Troy.)

 Our friend has been living here more than a year.  We always appreciate her insights.  It was a wonderful for Cam and I to hang out with an adult, not associated with his work, and to speak English.  It felt like a holiday.

While in Canakkale, we walked the newly refurbished pedestrian area along the water.  We had cay on the waterfront and then walked to the other end to the Naval Museum.

There are many things displayed outside which you can visit and look at for free.  However in order to go inside the castle or visit the minesweeper you must pay a small admission.  For our family of five, I think it cost 20tl.  It would have been less if I'd read the sign and declared the children to be students. (oops)  Onboard the mine layer, Nusret, we saw a video presentation of the WWI battle in the strait. Although they had headphones for us with English audio, I had difficulty getting mine to work.  We were also able to walk round the ship in the company of some very attentive young sailors. We were amused to see the small room below decks hung with hammocks for the men to sleep in and the tiny kitchen. The museum inside the castle had some signs in English and some interesting displays.  There were lots of steep stairs in this museum and some low ceilings.  I think the girls were more fascinated by the interior of the castle than the displays.

Johanna and anchors for anti-sub nets

Sam walking towards the mine sweeper
Up periscope

The hull of a submarine

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Hagia (Aya) Sophia

I'm guessing Mom has educated you all on the Hagia Sophia. This building has survived 2 changes of government (Byzantine to Ottoman, Ottoman to Turkish), who knows how many earthquakes, and least one major war. Its impressive domed roof is a symbol of Muslim architecture even though the building started out as a Christian church. And the spectacularly smooth marble that covers the entire building’s interior must have required almost unlimited resources to bring to its location. After saying all this I’ll get to the point; it's been on my mind, since we first came to Turkey, to make a music video about the Hagia Sophia, so here it is;