The Veteran Neophyte

Istanbul, step 1

Posted in Turkey by Dave on November 23, 2014

We made our way to Istanbul this weekend for the first (but certainly not last) time. This trip was all about some serious touristing, and getting the lay of the land. Here’s the group, fueling up. That’s Alihan in the green shirt, one of the people who works at the Bilim Merkezi, who came along to guide us. Thank you Alihan! Note also the friendly cat occupying Billy, who wandered in out of the cold for some warm lap time.Coffeetopia

This underground cistern was our first major tourist stop. Note that the columns come in a few styles: they were re-purposed to build this cistern.IMG_3133

A couple of the columns have medusa heads for footings…for some reason this one is sideways.


A nice mosque at night:IMG_3138

A roasted chestnut cart, steaming:IMG_1168

Along the way we stopped for çay and baklava, because, you know, we’re in Turkey.


Here’s a decent shot of the Blue Mosque (to be toured in the future):IMG_3149

Kua and Alihan headed home later that night, but Billy, Schuyler and I stayed over. The younguns grabbed a hostel, I stayed in this little hotel, a converted Ottoman house located just behind the Blue Mosque (thanks, Rick Steves!). I had a view of the minarets from my window, which also meant that the morning call to prayer was, um, let’s say crystal clear.


In the morning I wandered the back streets before breakfast, getting lost in the twisty tiny streets of old Istanbul. Here’s one inexplicable scene I ran across:


As far as I could tell, this was just someone’s hobby project…there was no cafe attached.

I met up with the others a little later, and we toured the Hagia Sophia. From one of my books: “For a thousand years, the largest enclosed space in the world.” I won’t even try to describe it.

To get to the upper galleries, you take a series of ramps. Why ramps instead of stairs? Because people of noble birth were either carried by their servants, or rode horses.


Note the stone worn smooth by the years of trodding. Here’s an even more extreme example: marble that looks more like taffy, walked on for a thousand years.IMG_1174

Lastly: while crouching down to take that last picture, another cat trying to find someplace warm decided my thigh was good. He was right.




Posted in Turkey by Dave on November 21, 2014

Since I really have nothing particularly coherent to say, here are some random updates:

Work-wise, things are starting to move: Our spanking new milling machine and lathe arrived day before yesterday. The unloading was, um, exciting. Note the guy in the blue shirt: as everyone knows, having a cigarette dangling from your lips while manhandling a ton or so of precision machinery really helps.

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And yesterday all the exhibits showed up. Although we had to wait several hours after the trucks arrived for the rented forklift to arrive, eventually we got all 49 of them unloaded and stashed safely inside, wrapped in their clean blue moving blankets.


Today at the Bilim Merkezi (Science Center) there was a delicious fish fry for lunch.



Simple and fantastically delicious: ultra-fresh fish, tomatoes, onions, turnips, tea, bread, halvah. Eaten with fingers and happy smacking sounds.

I’ve grown fond of a turnip juice drink they have here, salty and spicy. Here are the ingredients:



As you would imagine, it’s the boiled and pounded wheat that really makes it.

The building that houses the Bilim Merkezi is a converted historical paper mill, and they re-used some of the original bricks from the 1930s, stamped with a lion, in the construction:


Here you can see the new Bilim Merkezi on the right, and other buildings, yet to be rebuilt, on the left. Quite the contrast.


Some cats dozing on a nice warm red car in the sun



And a lovely bundle of cinnamon sticks I ran across during a ramble through town:

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Lastly, let me leave you with this thought:


In the beginning…

Posted in Turkey by Dave on November 15, 2014

At the end of my fourth full day in Turkey, I’m sitting here on my bed in this tiny, kinda funky hotel room trying to think what to say about it. I can tell you this: my belly is full, my head is full, and my heart is full. Many adventures have been had in just a few days, and many, many more are coming.

I’m here in Izmit (which is decidedly NOT a tourist destination, at least among English speakers) with three other Americans: Schuyler Robertson, Billy Collister, and Kua Patten, working on a new science museum. Here we are lunching on the nearby shore:
The Team

So far we have:
–Visited the Turkish Home Depot
–Eaten a lot of fabulous food
–Drunk at least a thousand glasses of the ubiquitous black tea (çay)
–Met a few street dogs (Billy nicknamed this one “Parvo”)
–Chatted up some fisherfolk on the Black Sea (where “chatting” consists of saying, basically, hello, then smiling a lot and accepting an offer of çay)

Oh yeah, and we’ve also worked, of course, as much as we can before the exhibits arrive. But you don’t want to hear about that. Suffice it to say that we’re itching to get down to business, and as soon as the containers arrive we are ready to pounce, with gusto.