Monthly Archives: October 2013

Istanbul, Not Constantinople

It looks like I’ll be taking an impromptu trip to Istanbul in the near future!  Hopefully I won’t strangle my travel companion for constantly singing the song “Istanbul, not Constantinople,” as he is wont to do.  (I really hate that song.)

Here’s a video of one of the most annoying songs in the world.  Warning: watching this video may cause you to want to shoot yourself.

I threw together a list of all the sites I want to see there, with their visiting hours.  It goes something like this.

Aya Sofya (Hagia Sophia): Tues.-Sun. 9-5 in winter (or 7 in summer)

Blue Mosque: Daily 9-5 in winter (6:30 summer); closed during prayer times

Basilica Cistern: Daily 9-5:30 in winter (6:30 summer)

Topkapi Palace: Wed.-Mon. 9-7 from April to Oct.

Topkapi Harem: Wed.-Mon. 9:30-5 from April to Oct.

Mosque of Suleyman: Daily sunrise-sunset except during prayer

Kariye Museum/ Church of Holy Savior in Chora: Thurs.-Tues. 9-7

Istanbul Archeological Museum: Tues.-Sun. 9-5 in winter (or 7 in summer)

Grand Bazaar: Mon.-Sat. 8:30-7

Egyptian Bazaar/ Spice Market: Mon.-Sat. 8:30-7, Sun. 9-6:30

Hippodrome: No hours, free

If I have time, I also want to see:

Mosque of Sokollu Mehmet Pasha: Daily sunrise-sunset except during prayer times

Dolmabahce Palace: Tues.-Wed. and Fri-Sun. 8:30-4 in winter (4:30 in summer); daily quota of visitors.

Can anyone recommend how many days I should spend in Istanbul?  I’m thinking three or four days.  I may also throw in a trip to Cappadocia if I have time!

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Filed under humor, travel, Turkey

Close Encounters of the Octopus Kind

I love octopuses – or is it octopi?  They’re so smart, I can’t bring myself to eat them.  I was snorkeling off the coast of San Pedro in Belize in very shallow water, when I spotted some movement – my first octopus sighting!  Quick as a whistle, it darted into a reef and changed color, turning white to blend in with the coral.

Can you spot the octopus?  It's that white thing in the center, with two little eyes peeking out.

Can you spot the octopus? It’s that white thing in the center, with two little eyes peeking out.

Then, much to my amazement, it latched on to a conch shell and started pulling it over itself, until only two beady eyes remained.

If you look very carefully, you'll see the eyes.

If you look very carefully, you’ll see the eyes.

Mr. Octopus is not pleased.  I think by this point he had pulled a second shell onto himself.

Mr. Octopus is not pleased. I think by this point he had pulled a second shell onto himself.

We stared at each other for a few minutes in a tense standoff, and then I let the octopus be.  I went back to my kayak – it took me about ten tries to climb over the side and get inside the damn thing!  Especially because the person I was with decided to take pictures instead of help me.

Why don't you put down the camera and help me?

Why don’t you put down the camera and help me?

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Filed under Belize, humor, travel, underwater

Genuine Fake Watches? Yes, Please!

The picture says it all.

Souvenir shop outside of Ephesus, Turkey

Bizarre souvenir shop outside of Ephesus, Turkey. At least they’re honest (sort of).

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Filed under Europe, humor, travel, Turkey

Travel Adventure #1: Playing Dead in Montmajour Abbey

Call me morbid, but I love old cemeteries.  They’re so peaceful, so spiritual, so, well, otherworldly.  I can spend hours looking at  tombstones and reading the inscriptions, thinking about how the people lived. 

My all-time favorite cemetery is the one I came across unexpectedly at Montmajour Abbey, a huge medieval monastery outside of Arles in France.  There aren’t any bodies there now – they were removed long ago.  When I first saw the large holes cut into the rocky outcrop outside the abbey, I didn’t know what they were.  Then I realized the holes were vaguely human-shaped, with angular cuts for the shoulders and head.  My thoughts went something like this:

“Oh my God, those are tombs cut into the rock.”

“Wow, they are hundreds of years old.”

“It’s strange that there’s nothing covering them.”

“Since there’s nothing covering them, I should probably get inside one right now!”

And that’s just what I did.  It’s not every day you get to lie inside someone’s tomb.  It wasn’t too comfy, but it was an otherworldly experience.

Playing dead in Montmajour Abbey necropolis

Playing dead in Montmajour Abbey necropolis

Montmajour Abbey necropolis

Montmajour Abbey necropolis

Water-filled tombs in Montmajour Abbey

More tombs in Montmajour Abbey

Picture 241

A view of all the tombs from the abbey’s tower.

 

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Filed under Europe, France, history, travel